Offering and demanding social media transparency in 2011

My Big Omaha 2010 photo appeared on sites
Transparency.  This photo from Big Omaha last year demonstrates the problem.  I used the photo for awhile as my profile picture. I should have disclosed: a) I received free admission on a media pass; b) I and others posted the free photo; c) the Coke was free; and d) one of the program organizers is married to a faculty colleague.  My campus has a strategic goal of "community engagement," and these relationships pose an almost constant environment of ethical challenges.  Such informal relationships offer opportunities to fall short on being transparent.  What is all in good fun or good business, presents a set of emerging issues when amplified through social media and modern public relations.

Social media in 2011 has reached a point of maturity in which relationships -- particularly client relationships -- must be disclosed.  I've seen a nice example of how this can be accomplished on Twitter and elsewhere.  Rick Murray, Edelman Chicago president, uses the simple "(client)" to disclose that he personally benefits from a contractual relationship between his employer Edelman and Research In Motion (RIM), which manufactures Blackberry devices.  

Here's to #teamBlackBerry! "@bdwallace: BlackBerry Climbs To #2 on The Vitrue 100: Top Social Brands of 2010" (client)

Murray has also gone beyond this to tweet during trips to Canada for meetings with RIM.  It's not always that simple.  For example, while I do not have a formal or contractual relationship with Edelman, I've been their guest at the last two New Media Academic Summits in Washington, DC and New York.  That relationship led me to invite Murray to speak at our Omaha 10-10-10 conference last year.

Transparency requires me to tell you these facts in this post, but such relationships are not as easy to disclose in a 140 character or less tweet on Twitter.  Drawing from the (client) model, maybe (friend) or (associate) or some other word needs to be included in postings.

Recently on Facebook, an old friend asked why, on the eve of a large Omaha snow storm, my family and friends were again talking about the Wovel -- a wheeled shovel, (which coincidentally also comes from Canada).

Notice in the posting that I explained that I do not represent the Wovel.  To go further, I could say that I learned about it a few years ago while watching an HGTV segment, purchased one and use it every winter.  While doing so, I still get a lot of looks and comments from passers-by, so my assumption is that it remains a bit of a novelty.  Transparency concerns arise from social media marketing, as they do from the spreading of news and information. 

Turning to the serious matter of inaccurate information flowing from the shooting scene of a member of the U.S. House, there are calls arising for a correction policy on sites, such as Twitter.  I was one of those who re-tweeted the wrong information via usually reliable media that the victim had died.  Such reports had to be painful, particularly for friends and family in Arizona and elsewhere.  Most of us on social media quickly corrected the news, but the lack of traditional gatekeeping presents yet another ethical quagmire.

As the newness and uniqueness of social media pass, the unbridled freedom demands that all of us who use it accept responsibilities for disclosure.  As is the case with traditional journalists, our content cannot effectively pass judgment on politicians and public figures unless we, too, offer proactive transparency, honest answers and fair service to our social networks.

Not only must we offer transparency, but all social media users must exercise media literacy skills.  Always ask why people are communicating.  Keep in mind that the old "buyer beware" and "reasonable consumer" standards apply here in social media spaces.  When in doubt, do as my friend did:  Challenge the speaker to be more transparent.


Going mobile in 2011

CNN mobile was live on Dec. 31-Jan.1
This will be the year that ubiquitous mobile media broadly diffuse.  The availability of "app phones" and access to live or recorded video pose a serious threat to alternatives, such as broadcast and cable television.  As  consumer electronics manufacturers have demonstrated, it will not be long before these small images are easily bounced to our nearby large screens.  On New Year's Eve, while staying in downtown Chicago, I didn't mind watching CNN coverage from Times Square on my iPhone, but I can also see that larger screens make sense for sports and drama.  At the same time, this seems to be the year of the tablet.  The success of the iPad produced a sea of competitors, including some with features not yet available from Apple.  Watch for the second generation iPad to take center stage.  The addition of cameras is expanding devices into the two-way video environment.  No wonder the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to find more wireless spectrum by recalling under-used space.  We like our media, and we want it with us whenever and wherever there is interest.  As a guy who came from the analog age, digital technology is amazing.  Now, if content providers will please improve quality, the promises of media may yet be realized.