Social Media Isn’t Easy to Control

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-07-31 Print this article Print


Covering something as sprawling as the Olympics in a way that will satisfy everyone is practically impossible. There€™s so much happening that you can€™t cover everything in the way that pleases everyone. There are going to be complaints. 

But the complaints aren€™t the problem. The problem comes when instead of trying to turn those complaints into a positive experience, you perceive them as attacks, and try to prevent them, or failing that, try to insult the complainers for having the nerve to complain. Worst of all is when you take complaints and use those as a base for a counter-attack instead of a solution. This has been NBC€™s downfall in the network€™s attempt at leveraging the social media. 

For example, on the first day of the Olympics, both the International Olympic Committee and NBC tried to convince people not to Tweet the results of games or medals won, apparently as a way to protect the network€™s prime-time lineup. This isn€™t surprising in regards to the IOC, which is legendary in its attempts to prevent the free flow of information. With NBC, it€™s a little surprising. But more surprising yet was NBC€™s successful attempt to get Twitter to pull the account of a journalist who was complaining about the network€™s policy of using tape delays in televising significant events. 

In this case, the network got Twitter to shut off the account of Guy Adams of the Independent for publishing the public corporate e-mail address of Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics. This is the same address that is on the company€™s Website. 

NBC could have turned this into a win if the person in charge of the company€™s social media efforts, Vivian Schiller, had responded with an offer to try to have that changed, but she didn€™t. Instead Schiller (@vivianschiller) took to Twitter herself to demean people for complaining, such as suggesting that one Twitter follower should get a medal for Olympic whining. 

The positive note is that NBC has shown that one well-worn saying I€™d heard for years was true€“that there€™s always someone who€™s best use is as a bad example. If there has been a bad example of how to create and implement a social media strategy, then surely it€™s NBC. If you want to know how bad, just search for the hashtag #nbcfail and you€™ll see dozens of tweets stream by every second. By now, one must wonder if @vivianschiller has recognized that maybe this wasn€™t the best way to leverage the social media. 

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Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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