What a buzz the viral video generated.
I’m not referring to the buzz about Ted Williams, the homeless guy who was brought from obscurity to the national spotlight due to a video shot by a Dispatch photographer. Practically everyone in the world has seen that video, watched his interviews on the CBS Early Show and the NBC Today Show, and the heartwarming reunion with his mother.
I’m not talking about that buzz.
I’m talking about the backlash The Columbus Dispatch received for their actions following the media storm:
Have you listened to the Web lately? There are many conversations happening online surrounding the debate about whether the newspaper should have pulled the video from YouTube.
- Dispatch photographer shoots video, uploads it to Dispatch.com.
- Someone shares the video on YouTube.
- Ted Williams becomes famous.
- Dispatch pulls video claiming copyright infringement; creates YouTube channel and uploads video to YouTube.
- Blogosphere lights up; online conversations include many negative comments.
Dispatch editor Ben Marrison explained his reason to the readers on his blog. (Update-It looks like he removed his post about the topic.) And he is clearly within his rights in trying to protect his copyrighted material. YouTube clearly states that you are not to upload any content without permission unless you create that content yourself. But you know, sometimes those pesky Internet geeks don’t follow the rules.
The irony here is that had that Dispatch.com reader (“ritchey”) not shared the video on YouTube, Ted Williams might still be hanging out in Columbus looking for spare change for his next meal. (To ritchey’s credit, he did state where the video came from). What’s even more interesting is that every story on the newspaper’s website has share buttons, encouraging readers to share the content. Perhaps there was a share button alongside the video? I did not see the original video when it was uploaded to Dispatch.com.
The point here is that if you’re going to invite people to share your content via the social networks, plan ahead; get your social media act together. If your company is generating content with an invitation for readers to share it, make sure you have the right channels in place.
Here are 4 suggestions for companies who are sharing their content via the web:
- Like one of the previous bloggers mentioned, your company website is not a portal. The world is not going to beat a path to your site. Take advantage of the outposts that are already out there — like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook — to drive traffic back to your “home base” for readers to consume your content.
- Create some social media guidelines for those employees who are allowed to post your company’s content to the web. Decide “who” can post and “where” they can post.
- Listen and reach out to the bloggers and others in the social media world. They are sharing tips and suggestions every day. The social networks are great places to learn different ways to use social media. For example PRTini had some great suggestions here.
- Keep your ear to the web and see what your audience is saying about you. If most of what you are reading is negative, step back and think through your response before posting. Defend your actions, but if you also screwed up, admit it. “I’m sorry, we should have created a YouTube channel first;” or “You know, we did mess up here.” Remember the BP debacle. Ok, maybe that’s an extreme example; point is, being authentic can go a long way towards credibility. Your audience and fans will eventually forgive you, but only if you come across as open and authentic.
At a social media conference I attended in October, Brian Solis said, “There are no such things as social media experts. We’re all learning this together.” None of us knows everything about the social media world. It’s ok to stumble along the way; we all have at some point. But using our mistakes as lessons to be learned from makes us that much stronger. Including your company.
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