Can You Control Social Media? Should You?

Can you find your favorite social media logo here?

Can you find your favorite social media logo here?

Is social media controllable? If you think it is, should you attempt to control it? If you think it isn’t – what does that mean for your organization. Can you control your customer’s use of social media?

The  Southeastern Conference, SEC, in another in the ongoing string of organizations who seem to completely fail to understand how pervasive social media has become, is about to ban all social media from their stadiums. The policy as it’s written but not yet adopted says: 

       “Ticketed fans can’t “produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event. “

This means no Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. It even means they can’t call someone and tell them about the game or what they saw. I have no idea how they think they’ll be able to enforce any part of this rule. Let’s see 80,000 fans, all with cell phones and the SEC thinks a policy preventing social media from being used can be enforced? I’m not a lawyer, although I did get an A in Communcations Law in Journalism School, but my first thought is that this has a whiff of prior restraint on 1st amendment grounds.

Of course the SEC is not alone in pursuing such idiocy. Several NFL teams also provide great windows  into organizational paranoia and textbook examples of how not to craft and enforce social media policies.

Example 1 -The San Diego Chargers. They fined cornerback Antonio Cromartie, @crimetime31 , $2,500 for sending out the following tweet, according to NBC Sports:  “Man we have 2 have the most nasty food of any team. Damn can we upgrade 4 str8 years the same ish maybe that’s y we can’t we the SB we need.” 

Shakespeare he ain’t, but setting aside the typically creative social media spelling and grammar it appears to me that Cromartie’s only crime was breaking one of the cardinal rules of business. You just don’t air your dirty laundry in public. You don’t do it – no matter what. The venue doesn’t matter – blog, email, twitter, talking at the bar or even on a cellphone on a crowded plane – you don’t air your business dirty laundry in public. Period and Exclamation Point!  No one looks good when you do it – not your company and most especially not you either.

Back to Twitter. Is this really about Twitter or do NFL teams have a different goal in mind. The banning of Twitter and other social media is actually contrary to the league’s recommendation that teams should allow Tweets and other forms of blogging during the training camp practice period.

Example 2 – The Miami Dolphins are banning all texting, Tweeting, and blogging by both Media and Fans at their public practices. And they are not alone in trying to completely control the media. Of course only the Dolphins seem to be trying to control fans as well as the media

That most NFL teams are more paranoid than your average methhead isn’t exactly news and neither is the fact that their paranoia doesn’t stop with  controlling their players.  How teams like the Miami Dolphins are supposed to police their fans when over 3,000 fans attended a recent practice isn’t covered but beyond how it is supposed to work, what it’s supposed to accomplish the real question. If you are so paranoid about things leaking out why would you have public practices in the first place? Tweets are after all only 140 characters and you are allowing people to watch your practices from the stands. If you don’t want any information about your practices made public – don’t open them to the public.

Of course its not just Twitter. The disruptive nature of Twitter and other social media technologies can be truly seen when organizations that are ill-equipped in thought and policy are confronted with these new challenges. Instead of leveraging these technologies they fall into a reactionary mindset and can’t imagine what good can come of them. It’s not like social media hasn’t been around in some form for at least 10 years now, yet the SEC and the NFL is acting like these technologies are the coming apocalypse.  And maybe they are.

 Maybe they’ll take the first nibbles out of the NFL’s revenue model, more likely they’ll drive more fans and more interest into the various NFL products and properties. In an age where the NFL draft is now covered live on TV complete with rabid fans,  I don’t think a little twittering or facebooking will even be noticed. In fact I predict that Madden NFL 2011 will have an in game tweeting/facebook option allowing game players to comment on the game they are currently playing. How long before the NFL itself figures soemthing like that out is beyond me to guess, let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.

What do you think? Is Twittering and other social media controllable? Should it be controlled? Is the SEC right? Or wrong? What’s your organization’s policy on Social Media? -t

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