In early 2009 Twitter user @theconnor posted the following message publicly on Twitter:
“Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”
..to which someone associated with Cisco responded:
“Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure they would love to know you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”
Presumably, the hiring manager was informed about this, since @theconnor did not get the job.
Also in early 2009, Twitter user @keyinfluencer, posted the following message publicly on Twitter upon landing in Memphis – to advise his client FedEx on the use of social media:
“True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.”
A FedEx employee saw the post, and shared it internally, igniting a minor firestorm between @keyinfluencer’s company and its client.
Both of these examples highlight an important point.
In order to really use a form of communication effectively, a person needs to have both skills and literacy. “Skills” are the core set of things i need to know in order to communicate. “Literacy” is the ability to use a set of skills in order to understand and communicate ideas within a cultural context.
|Letter Writing||penmanship, mailing a letter, grammar||rhetoric, persuasion, interpersonal communication|
|typing, word processing, how to use a computer||appropriateness of “reply all”, cultural acceptance of emoticons, joke forwarding, WRITING IN ALL CAPS|
|Social Media||uploading images, tagging, setting up accounts||network effects, appropriate public sharing, collective intelligence, understanding of multiple identities|
It is often assumed that skills and literacy are the same. They are not. And such assumptions can have disastrous consequences. A person with the skills to type, set up a social network account and upload images is not necessarily any more qualified to start using social media for themselves or on behalf of their organization than a monkey who has acquired the skills to pull a trigger is qualified to start using a gun. The difference, of course, is that a person can acquire the literacy necessary to use social media effectively, while there is little hope for monkeys.
It is clear that @theconnor and @keyinfluencer both had the skills necessary to participate in social media. They had set up active Twitter accounts, were posting content, etc. But they appear to have lacked some social media literacy of network effects and public/private identity that might have steered them away from making the mistakes that they did.
For organizations who are moving toward the internal or external use of social media, it is important to promote both skills and literacy in employees who will be using it. For more information on how to do this, please contact us. We can help.
Note: there is a very interesting related USA Today article about some of the more subtle cultural literacy necessary to write for social media.