Social Media, what a term. It does exactly what it says on the tin, its social and its media with a very big M!
Used in the right way its phenomenal.
Only this week I have been contacted by someone who shares our strange name. Sammy Eccles who lives in Aberdeen who like me works in the creative industries, or a few months ago Mr Ed Eccles a Sheriff in New York who like me now and again takes a punt on contacting a namesake and saying hello.
Its mind boggling to think that only 10 years ago that this type of activity would be beyond anyones imagination. Of course that is the fantastic end of this world wide phenomenon.
There are however other strands which are far less appealing.
Social Media allows you to make an online persona which is often an image that reflects what you would like the world to see, which can be entirely different to the reality. We share thoughts, aspirations and even make our lives seem a little more attractive than they may be just to massage our fragile egos.
Even Companies and Charities are using Social Media to promote themselves as warm friendly organisations. So what harm can it do?
In reality it can do a great deal of harm in the hands of people who are not in the business of communicating to the world in a professional capacity.
During the past couple of weeks there have been cases in the press in which people have come unstuck by tweeting and publishing material which is not only infringing our existing laws but is damaging some very credible causes that needed fighting in the right way.
We all at times blame PR companies for spinning stories and Journalists for using unscrupulous methods to get a story, but the truth of the matter is that these people rarely come unstuck because they know what and how to say what needs to be said. More importantly they know what not to say.
Bloggers of which I am one, often blog about subjects which are less than contentious, the latest recipe for cupcakes or what restaurants offer the best value in and around the locality.
However every now and again individuals and groups use the medium to start campaigns about local issues that are both worthy and heartfelt. These campaigns are started by people who have the interest of the community at heart but have little knowledge of the laws that control traditional media.
Newspapers and Broadcast Media are governed by strict codes of conduct that are based on existing laws that protect individuals from unfair treatment by the Media Industry.
So this is the point I have been coming to. People need to be aware when using social media you can be judged to be infringing these laws without even knowing it. It was not long ago that Sally Bercow’s tweet found her on the wrong end of a £50,000 libel lawsuit filed by McAlpine.
So here is my advice to these people:-
Make sure your facts are facts and from a reputable source, preferably two.
Never state your opinion as fact.
Never distribute unsubstantiated gossip.
Never exaggerate your case.
And finally never criticise in print local mainstream media because they haven’t given your story what you consider to be the coverage that you think it deserves. (In my world this is called biting the hand that feeds you).
One more point I feel needs mentioning, if you have a comments facility on your blog, never post something from anyone else that contravenes any of the above points because it is you as the publisher of the blog who will be pursued through the courts.
So be careful out there, the internet as they say can be a dangerous place, so thats this months rant over with and in the New Year I will be back to being a more mundane Grumpy Northern Bloke.
So all that remains for me to say is that thankfully we are about to start two weeks holiday, so can I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I hope Santa delivers everything you wish for, but don’t be to disappointed if he doesn’t. I cant see him delivering me a new Jaguar, even I don’t think I have been that good!