Just in case you have not followed the recent saga of the demise and reinstatement of AIIM’s CIP certification, read Mark Owen’s blog here, which has a good summary of events.
I am not going to dwell on the ins and outs of AIIM’s decision, which has been analysed enough. However, there is an underlying story to the events which is significant: In case anyone had any doubts, this is one of the best showcases of the power of Social Media that I’ve seen so far: From the original decision announcement, through the members’ rebellion, to the final reversal decision, took just 7 days, and that included a weekend.
Think about this process: Within hours of the original decision announcement, the twitter feeds were buzzing! (well, the ECM twitter feeds at least, let’s not get over excited…). Amazement, scold, sarcasm, and a genuine discussion on the relative merits of CIP vs. IGP and vs. other AIIM certifications such as ECMm. A great amount of very good content. Over the next couple of days, the blogs started appearing. Most of the vocal people in our community were up in arms and made their voice heard. Even more twitter traffic, while these blogs were disseminated. People at AIIM saw and heard the response, loud and clear. A few more discussions later, a new announcement of the reinstatement of CIP (through a blog and twitter) and a lot more twitter traffic and a lot more blogs. For the most part, congratulating AIIM for being active, listening, responsive and doing the right thing.
AIIM is a community of several thousand people. There is a core of a few dozen people that have been actively involved with AIIM for a long time and, by default, they are the biggest advocates the most ferocious critics. They also happen to be prolific Social Media users, particularly on Twitter and blogs. You could argue that the statistical sample of the people that complained about CIP is not significant, compared to the overall number of AIIM members, but that would be a very short-sighted view. When you consider who these people were, the communities that they themselves represent, and the influence they exhort into the ECM community (again through the power of Social Media…), it would have been very difficult for AIIM to ignore.
On top of that, when your best advocates become critics, you tend to pay attention…
Kudos to AIIM for recognising the issue and doing something about it. Even bigger kudos to Social Media, as a platform for change. I don’t think that this kind of dramatic unfolding of events, immediate and overwhelming public response to an unpopular decision, and finally the winning over of the disgruntled masses to a successful outcome, all in the space of one week, would have been possible in any other era or medium.
Finally, a quote from a tweet by Lisa Hoover McGreevy (@Lisah), who summed it up beautifully: “Well done, # members. And, uh, remind me to never piss you off. ;)”
(Originally published on IBM.com by George Parapadakis on 20 August 2009)
I have been using Twitter for a couple of months now, trying to assess its value as a business tool (I’m not too good with broadcasting what I had for breakfast or where I go for a walk in the evening, I’m afraid…). So I’m trying several things out and in a pseudo-scientific fashion trying to analyze the outcome. So here is my first batch of observations, from my experiments so far:
3. Pay attention to what people are tweeting and re-tweeting. You will soon spot the ones that add value! People who retweet everything – OUT; people who only write marketing /advertising/self promoting tweets – OUT; people who selectively re-tweet and tag things relevant to you, great filters – IN; people who provide insight and genuine thoughtful tweets – IN. I just wish there was a way of grouping the people I follow by stars out of 5, based on how interested I am in what they have to say!
4. Twitter is a pyramid networking system! Unless you are a celebrity comedian, you will only ever have a limited number of followers. But your followers’ followers are your real network. They people that follow you and pay attention, will retweet your posts to their followers. And they to theirs, because they trust the source. Here’s an example: I recently posted a humorous blog on: “10 questions to spot an ECM expert”. I have less than 100 followers on Twitter, and only a handful of them actually pay attention to anything I post. Six (6) people retweeted my tweet. From their followers, I got another 9 retweets. From these 16 tweets in all (and thanks to using relevant hashtags of course) , my blog ranked up to 550 hits within 24 hours. Similar blogs before twitter would have had 5 to 6 hits over a couple of weeks. Very powerful!
5. Don’t believe everything you read. There is a lot of scope in Twitter for distorting (deliberately or accidentally) information, because people implicitly trust the sources they signed up to. A re-tweet does not necessarily come from whoever it says it comes from, nor did it have the same text necessarily, when it started its journey!
So here is my conclusion so far, and I would love to hear your views on it: In the next 6 months Twitter will either collapse under its own weight (people getting tired of trying to find the relevant amongst the irrelevant) or it will transform radically into a set of different and more refined tools. Marketers who already abuse the system will be marginalized, while marketers that understand (and respect!) how powerful this tool can be, will use it to disseminate valuable information, faster than ever was possible before. Personal tweeting will either be segmented out, or it will move back to other networks like facebook, linkedin, etc.
A scary Friday thought, but with a hint or reality thrown in…
A lot of people will be familiar with the famous War of the Worlds radio hoax story: In 1938, Orson Welles presented a Halloween spoof alien invasion story on CBS radio. The story was so believable that widespread panic ensued.
“The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast was presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress […] The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast” (Wikipedia)
In 1938, pre-TV era, radio was the most immediate medium for communicating information to people. People trusted the radio and in particular they trusted the News bulletins. In a way, Welles hijacked (abused, if you like) that trust. People reacted to snippets of unconfirmed information, because they implicitly trusted its source. The resulting panic was not the only effect. The trustworthiness of real news sources was questioned. A host of conspiracy theories followed. The same play was adapted and reused in other geographies, causing similar panic and even resulting in deaths.
Roll forward 70 years or so… The most immediate broadcast medium today, is Twitter. Based on 140-character snippets of unconfirmed information. Delivered straight to your mobile/cell phone, wherever you are. What if the BBC or Time or CNN (or anyone spoofing as them) were to broadcast an Orson Welles equivalent hoax. And the world re-tweets, seconds later…. What would today’s reaction be?
Would people panic? That means that people are trusting their social media sources as much as they trusted the radio in 1938. And twitter is a dangerous place to be!
Would they wait and double check their sources? If so, it means we are inherently NOT trusting the information we get from twitter. Which then questions the value of the medium.
Are we any more savvy today than people were in 1938? We would like to think so. But the thousands of people that daily fall victim to email and phone and get-rich-fast scams (and the proliferation of these scams) does not substantiate that belief… Fortunately or unfortunately, people are generally more naive than paranoid.
Have a good weekend! – George
Sometimes, we take too much for granted. Twitter is a wonderful and dangerous thing! Recently I had three twitter experiences which made me sit back and think again:
1) I saw Michael Jackson’s death twittered, before there was an article about it on the BBC News page. The immediacy of twitter as a medium is phenomenal. But “caveat emptor”. This time the news checked out when verified – it was true. It could have just as well been completely false, which would have equally driven crowds into mild panic and depression. So while I appreciate hearing about it first, I prefer the slightly more reserved “verify your sources first” approach of the news. Especially now that the conspiracy theorists are having a field day.
2) Re-twitting is what drives twitter and spreads information around faster than wildfire. Brilliantly simple concept and it really gives me a buzz to see people that I’ve never heard of, re-twitting my comments or my links. Just prefix with RT and the name of the original twitter and off you go. The other day however, someone RT’d one of my comments (thanks) but decided to slightly change half of it. The quip was funny, I appreciated his point and there was no malice intended. But it made me realise how easy it is for someone to put words into my mouth, by allegedly re-twitting something I’ve never said. People inherently trust information if they trust the source. There is no control in twitter-land for verifying that what someone says I said, is actually true! Combine that with the speed that information spreads on Twitter and you have a potential recipe for disaster!
3) Spare me the drivel! I think a lot of you will recognise this symptom: I am being very selective on twitter. I have a personal account and a work account. With my work account I follow people that relate to my work or have information that may be relevant to me. Including people from my own company. Recently I also joined a couple of twitter “communities” (twibes or Comtweets) from work, which changed my Twitter experience dramatically – I want to know what’s going on in my company. I don’t want to know the football results or what someone in Venezuela had for breakfast! The signal-to-noise ratio on some of these communities is very low. There is so much irrelevant noise that I am forced to un-follow them. I’m sure I will miss some important information from there. But it’s a small price to pay for not losing all the value of the other people I carefully decided to follow, who have something relevant to say and are now lost in the alphabet soup I receive.
I’m sure that over time, some form of informal “etiquette” will develop on twitter that will allow me to filter out the noise, verify re-tweets and validate news gossip. But until then I have to protect myself by treating everything with a little bit more caution than I have done so far.
Have you had any similar experiences that made you think twice about the value of social networking tools? I’d love to hear them and compile some sort of “Beware” list…
I am a Software Strategist, Social Media explorer and Photographer. Professionally, I have been involved with Document Management, Process Management and Content Management for the last 20+ years. The views here are my own and not those of my employer.
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