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Social Media: Y U Should ‘Like’ It


By Pamela Simmons

Social media isn’t new, but you wouldn’t know it from some people in the coatings industry.

Although billions of Earthlings have been Linking In for 10 years, Facebooking for nine, and Tweeting for six, many otherwise-progressive industry professionals are still keeping their distance.

As the director of marketing at Technology Publishing Company (home of PaintSquare and PaintSquare News), I’ve often gotten into conversations with people who aren’t sold on the whole Facebook/Twitter thing. The reasons they cite are the potentially negative situations that they perceive to be lurking in the social-media world.

“I know somebody who got fired because of a Facebook post.”

“I don’t want everyone knowing my business.”

“I don’t have time to be checking it constantly.”

Answering the Call

I tend to look at the big picture here and approach these naysayers by going back in time and substituting the word telephone for Facebook.

“What do I need with a telephone? If I have something to say to somebody, I’ll either write him a letter or tell them in person.”

“I don’t want to have to hear that thing ringing constantly. How annoying!”

“What good is a telephone if I need to call somebody that doesn’t have one?”

Sound familiar? And yet, the telephone—once, that wacky new and totally unnecessary device—has been woven seamlessly into the fabric of our day-to-day lives.

Not only do we all own telephones now, but we take them with us everywhere, pay out the wazoo for service, and understand that a business would have to be crazy to operate without one.

Tools of the Trade

By way of addressing the issues of negativity and potential for dire outcomes, it should be emphasized that social-media sites and applications are merely tools to be used by you. Yes, you’re the BOSS.

Sure, somebody can be fired because of what they posted on Facebook, but they can also be fired for what they say on the telephone—and we would never think of not using our phones for fear of losing our jobs.

The object of the game is to keep your own behavior in check, no matter what tool you’re using. If you conduct yourself appropriately (don’t say anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t say to your supervisor’s face, don’t disclose personal company business, and don’t post photos you wouldn’t want on the front page of the daily newspaper), then you should be just fine.

Subscribe to the universal workforce bylaws: “Don’t be an a—hole, and don’t get us sued.”

Like the telephone (and the mail, for that matter), social-media applications have many uses and can be applied to many situations. And just like the phone and mail, Facebook and Twitter use can be diverse, helping your business communicate better with clients, helping you reconnect with high-school buddies, or allowing you to keep better tabs on your kids.

Making New Connections

But aside from the predictable, and because of what technology now affords, some unusual connectivity opportunities have opened up for Facebook and Twitter—uses you might not initially think of.

For example, what happens to the Facebook profiles of users who die? Years ago, a friend of mine was killed in an auto accident, but her Myspace page lives on. It has become a memorial, easing the pain of her loss for friends and relatives by providing a place where they can go to “talk” to her, posting messages about missing her, reminiscing, and reading posts from others who are also grieving.

Although Myspace isn’t nearly as popular as it was five years ago, I just checked in and her page is still current with recent posts reading, “Wow. 5 years. I can’t believe you’ve been gone that long…”

It might be perceived as a bit macabre, but it is a clear example of how social media is fulfilling yet another need for human connection.

Facebook has a process of dealing with the death of users called “Memorializing a Profile.” They make a few functionality changes, like allowing only confirmed “Friends” to post, and not suggesting the deceased person as a possible friend to others. The account cannot be accessed by anyone to make changes, but friends are able to continue to post in remembrance.

Getting the Word Out

Social media has also become both a lifeline and a pipeline for critical, instant information.

Earlier this year, as tornadoes wreaked havoc across Dallas, authorities used Twitter to communicate with the masses. Dallas newspapers, television and radio stations also took to Twitter to get the word out. The Dallas Red Cross tweeted continuous updates and safety information, while DFW International Airport was able to provide personalized service via Twitter.

After the disaster, advance notice and effective communication were given primary credit for the fact that there were no fatalities, and Twitter was undeniably part of that.

Individuals are also relying on social media for critical communications, both personal and political.

On Dec. 21, 2011, a Utah woman and her 17-month-old son were taken captive by her boyfriend (the boy’s father) and beaten for almost five days. The boyfriend took her phone so she couldn’t call for help, but she managed to get hold of a laptop and hide in the closet.

Logging onto Facebook, she posted, “Hello, is anyone out there? I’m having serious problems and me and [the child] will be dead by morning.” Friends saw the post and contacted authorities, who rescued the woman and her son and arrested the boyfriend. There you have it. Facebook saves lives. Just like the telephone.

In 2010, Kosuke Tsuneoka, a Japanese journalist held hostage for five months in Afghanistan, tweeted his way to freedom on his captor’s cell phone. The guard had asked for Tsuneoka’s assistance with the new phone, as it was a more advanced model than most Afghanis used. Tsuneoka was able to activate the Internet on the phone; interest his captor in Twitter, claiming he could get messages out to Japanese journalists that way; and then “demonstrate” how to use it.

He tweeted, “I am still allive, but in jail” followed a few minutes later by “here is archi in kunduz. in the jail of commander lativ.” He was freed the next day. Read the story on PC World here.

In September 2010, a man armed with guns and explosives walked into the headquarters of the Discovery Channel and launched a hostage situation that lasted hours and ended with his death.

Even before news crews arrived on the scene, however, details of the situation (complete with photographs of the gunman) were already circulating via Twitter. (See the tweet slideshow here.) Besides serving as an outlet for developments as the situation played out, Twitter provided a means for people to let their loved ones know they were OK.

Last December, trouble hit Virginia Tech once again when a police officer was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. Terror spread through the campus as the unidentified gunman disappeared and reports of a second victim surfaced.

The campus was put on lockdown, with students and teachers instructed to stay indoors as the Virginia Tech paper and website, the Collegiate Times, tweeted real-time updates.

In a professional context, Facebook and Twitter still often get a bad rap these days, written off as fluffy and juvenile. But as time passes, more and more practical applications for these versatile social media tools will develop and continue to become more commonplace.

Not-so-slowly and surely, we will curb our habit of thinking only of the telephone as our means of communication on the fly.

Facebook and Twitter may be replaced at some point as Myspace was, but the animal called Social Media is here to stay, and if you haven't already, then you—yes, you—will probably utter these words to a colleague in the not-too-distant future:

“That sounds great. I’ll Facebook you.”


Pamela Simmons

As Director of Marketing at Technology Publishing Company (publisher of PaintSquare, JPCL and Durability + Design), I’m here to share my thoughts about marketing, social media, and how the digital revolution impacts the protective and marine coatings industry and the world in general.



Tagged categories: Community service; Disasters; Hazards; Health and safety; Information technology; Marketing; Online tools; Program/Project Management; Smartphones; Social Media; Website

Comment from John Fauth, (9/13/2012, 9:29 AM)

I'm not sure I buy into the comparison of today's social media with the advent of the telephone. In my opinion, social media as constructed today isn't about so much about communicating as it is about being heard. It's more about fulfilling the need to be perceived as important to others (most of whom they've never met), than a communication device (with someone they know). It is (relatively) indiscriminate, whereas the telephone is specific. It's the equivalent of shouting at the television, and not being satisfied with the fact that only the other folks in the room can "hear" you. It feeds the narcissist that resides in all of us, and take to the extremes we have today, I'm not sure how healthy that is.

Comment from Car F., (11/19/2012, 3:36 PM)

Mr. Fauth: I agree with you entirely. In the present highly individualist "ME" culture, the need to express that "ME" to others can be expressed by posting meaningless pieces of information such as "I'm at Joe's Restaurant eating fish", really.?, who cares what you eat and where! The self-centered narcissist would cease to exist if he/she would not have an audience. These devices are tools, but like any other tools I don't use them when I don't need them, I don't carry or speak about my brushes all the time. The communication tools are being sold as enteratinment and use to fill the gap in the empty, vacous and empty space of REAL social life and community.

Comment from Mark Schilling, (11/21/2012, 10:21 AM)

To John Fauth and Car F. - I agree completely. I live on the NJ shore. Hurricane Sandy beat us to a bloody pulp. I didn't need social media to see this monster storm coming. It was on this thing called a TV. I also heard about Sandy on this thing called a radio. We evacuated well inland. Our home is new and it survived comparatively well but we went without power for about two weeks, and then power was only intermittent. I kept in communication with friends and family by voice, on this thing called a cell phone. I communicated with some people by e-mail from my lap top PC but I had to drive well inland to find places to "steal" some power to recharge both the cell phone and the lap top. I have zero need for FaceBook. Car F., the only spin I would put on this is you referred to "tools." You noted that you don't use tools when you don't need them. I say social media CAN be a tool but it is larely used as a TOY. If I have a NEED to tell someone that I am at Joe's restaurant I can call them and tell THEM or leave a voice mail message. FaceBook is a popular waste of time. It is most definitely not an efficient way to communicate much of anything. But some people, mostly young kids, think it's great fun. And fun often wins.

Comment from John Fauth, (11/26/2012, 8:37 AM)

Great comments, Mark. Will you be posting them on Facebook for your friends and family?

Comment from James Johnson, (11/26/2012, 11:58 AM)

There are some very distinct differences between a phone call and a social media post. A phone call is relatively private between two people. A social media post is public to perhaps thousands of people. A phone call enables a two way conversation or discussion. A social media post is a one sided statement and not a discussion. A phone number can be private and unlisted. There is absolutely nothing private in social media, including any personal information you may have entered. Socially, many people tend to think there is a life in that box (computer or posting device). Those people simply do not comprehend that as they spend much of their time devoted to that box. No electronic device will ever equal actually getting out and meeting individual people and sharing a true conversation, thoughts and ideas. Yes, the younger set are all into social media, but do they ever consider what they are missing by not living life itself? I fear they will grow up making friends based on saying what the masses want to hear, not how they really feel. That can and would lead to generations of followers, but no leaders, a lack of individualism and a stifling of anyone who thought differently and a stifling of ingenuity as well. There is a place for social media, but it should definitely be used in moderation and people should not be as devoted to it as many are.

Comment from Mark Schilling, (11/27/2012, 12:07 PM)

Thanks for the positive feedback John Fauth, but no, I will not be posting any comments on Facebook for freinds and family. They already know what I think. As I originally noted, I fully agreed with your original comments. There is a kind of narcissism in play - it is egocentrism. It is about being heard. It's all about "me." The only time I look at Facebook or Twitter is to monitor how my children and their friends are wasting their time saying pretty much nothing whilst they enjoy playing with their toys. And as for the comments from James Johnson - I've known Jim for many years and we have never agreed on much of anything. But I'm going to have to cut him some slack on this one. Social media has a place but it should be used in moderation. Social media can never supplant knowing people and meeting with them face-to-face. The telephone has limitations but maybe a focused communication is what is needed and works best. Social media tends to be a toy - "Hey!! Lookee me!!"

Comment from John Fauth, (11/29/2012, 9:34 AM)

Mark, I hope you recognized my comments as satirical humor. :)

Comment from Don Schnell, (11/29/2012, 9:38 PM)

I remember getting my first beeper. Wow, someone could get in touch with you wherever you were, assuming you could find a pay phone to call them back. If you were between Coalinga and Buttonwillow, the sender would soon wonder, "Did he get my page?" That was back when you sent in your bid via Federal Express. And then there was my first fax machine. This amazing device weighed about as much as a kit of amine-cured epoxy and smelled worse. It was considered "high-tech" to have two numbers on your business card, a phone AND a fax number. It was not too long after that you would get the question, "Didn't you get my fax?" With the development of the cell phone, we could all communicate from virtually anywhere at any time. Terrific! Then there came email and the mailman was rendered useless. Next was the text message on your cell phone and OMG, we don't even need to converse. Now we are in the age of the Blackberry and iphone. I have tried to keep up with the technology as best as I can, but there is no doubt that my smart phone is smarter than I. So now, you must have had an accident or something if you don't respond to that self-important email within minutes. The speed of business has kept pace with this acceleration of communication. What was typed, printed and mailed is now sent from a hand-held wireless phone and retrieved on the receiver's belt in seconds...quickly followed by a text message reading "Didn't you get my email?" I really don't know what I don't know about social media. However, I do not look forward to the message, "Didn't you get my Tweet?"

Comment from Mark Schilling, (11/30/2012, 9:07 AM)

John, of course I recognize satirical humor. I only meant to reinforce your original comments because you pretty much nailed it. And hello Don Schnell. You are showing OUR age. Few if any of the people who monitor this chit-chat will have a clue where Coalinga is ("Coaling Station A"). We first met at that tank lining failure inspection in Coalinga, in January 1985. There is satire in your comments as well. How did we ever get by without all of these technology gadgets and toys?! And the answer is - we got by just fine. The younger crowd today cannot imagine doing without. I would love to pull a self-proclaimed coatings expert out of a crowd, put them on stage with a flip chart, chalk board, and overhead transparencies, so that they could create their own graphics on demand - and ask them some questions that need some explaining. Let's see what they really know, right there on the spot. I expect that most "paint experts" would choke without pre-prepared bullet points and a Powerpoint presentation as a crutch. Are the "toys" useful? Certainly. Are they making anyone smarter? No. Can we do a good job without them? Yes, definitely.

Comment from John Fauth, (11/30/2012, 11:32 AM)

Just checking, Mark. For all its worth, the computer is devoid of many nonverbal means of communication that would imply humor over inconsideration.

Comment from John Fauth, (11/30/2012, 11:38 AM)

Remember those car height pay phones? Before the bag phone, that was the salesman's dream... returning calls while seated in your car, able to spread out files and papers on the seat beside you. I recall making use of just such a phone in a very urban area, when I was approached by a persistent working girl. When politely told that I was trying to do some business, she responded loudly enough for the party I was speaking to to hear..."You tell them we're busy doing a trans-ACT-shun!!" Yeah, those were the days.

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