Using social media

I often hear that some people are reticent to use social media in organisational contexts because they feel that unless they have high quality production equipment, there is no point.  I must say that I have some sympathy to this view. However, I also believe that having simple equipment can also be effective so long as you have a good story to tell, and that the purpose and use of your media makes sense for what you are trying to do.

When I worked at Rabobank in Sydney a few years ago, one of the young chaps in the IT area used his mobile telephone to take video of himself talking through the proposed move to new office premises at Darling Harbour.  He basically filmed himself (at arm’s length) walking through the new office premises showing the refurbishments on the floors we would be occupying.  He gave a personal and informative commentary. And despite the video being somewhat jerky at times (he didn’t edit the video at all), it was still effective – but the BBC it certainly was not.  He even did a nice story, encouraging all of us at Rabobank to visit, about an historic visiting Dutch sailing ship moored at Darling Harbour (Rabobank is a Dutch bank).

Think of it, a mobile phone was used to record video which was uploaded to the intranet.  Well actually, in the initial phase I think the video was sent around as a file attachment.  Soon there was some buzz within the organisation about his chatty and informative videos.  In the end, I think he either had the files loaded on the intranet or he was fired … I think probably the former!

His personality and use of (mobile phone) video in such a seemingly amateuristic and informal way was of significant appeal; far greater than the formal channels of communication (newsletter and text on the intranet) about the office move.  And had his initial video been official policy, turning his video into some high-end production would have destroyed the natural and honest appeal of his reports.

More recently, I have enjoyed a number of reports about the World Food Program in Malawi.  The reports are videocasts (sorry, I always refere to video podcasts as videocasts) called On the road: Malawi.  It looks like the video is shot on a hand-held camcorder.  The story is natural and easy going.  It really is like being there in a real place – not some media-constructed and phoney backdrop to showcase production quality and five second soundbites.  The video has been edited, but video editing software these days is inexpensive and can yield good results.

These two examples demonstrate that having low-cost production techniques can in fact communicate high quality information and knowledge in an effective way.  Certainly, one has to ensure that the video is (mostly) in focus and the sound is audible and can be understood, but you don’t need expensive HD cameras and top-end audio recording equipment all the time. 

And of course, one has to pick the right audience and story that best suits these low-cost production strategies.  A corporate video and advertising campaign are likely to require higher level production values than (say) showcasing an internal success story within the organisation.  Digital images for National Geographic and the weekend colour supplements in national newspapers will have different quality requirements than a digital photostory on an intranet or website.

Similarly, the number of social media distribution tools (such as blogs, podcasting sites, Picassa Web and Flickr, MySpace and YouTube, for example) allow for a far greater range of production qualities than ever before. Instead of not doing things because we don’t have everything perfect, why not experiment with some of these low cost production options and see how effective they can be?

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2 responses to “Using social media

  1. Brad – I absolutely agree with this. The thing to do is to try something and see if it works.

    • Matt,

      That’s right – try it out but still put some sound thinking into it. The cost of these tools is negligible compared to huge system expenses and IT projects. We need to get over this mental hurdle that our organisational issues can only be solved by throwing buckets of money at them.

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