The story that's being bounced around the Internet this morning is that of Israel "acquiring the Twitter username @Israel," an effort by the nation's "recent initiative to get more involved in Social Media." In the spirit of the @Israel account origins, belonging to a Miami-based pornographic website, a recent essay by Joseph Laycock for ReligionDispatches magazines describes the "spiritual warfare" between a church and a strip club in, of all places, Warsaw, Ohio. And don't forget about the recent mutiny of Digg users
What do these three disparate events have in common? These three events focus on business's struggle to re-claim its footing in a digital world where individuals, and not the business, have claimed ownership of "the brand" and "authenticity of the image" (a la Walter Benjamin). Why would Israel, or any nation, want a Twitter account? In the vein of business concerns, would a Twitter account reduce the "professionalism" of a Nation? Is social media more than just 'networking' - does your virtual image affect your real image?
We just need to point to Obama to say that virtual image and "real" image are inseparable. Social Media's sole purpose is networking, and in the words of marketing strategy, leading your potential leads back to your 'landing page,' where the consumer, or business, can see what services you provide - the "real," the "value," behind your image. Therefore, virtual image just has as much authenticity as "real" image - social media is just as crucial as magazines, newspapers, and other physical objects like televisions [even though broadcasting is as intangible as communication gets, but that's another discussion entirely].
A key section of the stripper/ministry contention is how the Church attacked the strip club: they would arrive with foghorns, pickets, but would take pictures of the license plates of patrons. This tactic of disseminating private information is as familiar to internet users as "trolling," or deliberately posting incensing comments to get a rise for the sake of, well, making people angry. The strip joint sued the church for business damages - but a court ruled "freedom of speech," a force that businesses in the social media world are struggling to control. How can Coca-Cola control what goes on their facebook page, with hundreds of thousands of followers? With the pay-per-click Google Ads, what stopped competitors from non-stop click-bombing?
Internet sabotaging is another way companies are struggling to retain a professional image. When Digg changed their appearance, the users revolted - they flooded the Digg page with links to their competitor, Reddit, who made serious bank due to a tip-off by a Digg scout. Sounds like war-time espionage, but the model of "whoever controls the information" has led to often dirty competition.
However, the red tides have seemed to subside - businesses are learning that in order to reach a broader client base, while still maintaining control of their image, they need to plan, target, and establish loyalty through honest business practices. For example, Holdcom has a well designed business model (B2B and client relations), our targets are people who often place their customers on hold, and we establish loyalty through providing professional content and timely delivery. But we also need to improve in many areas, such as creating a stable image that reconciles professionalism with small business mentality.
The Internet is a magnificent tool for networking and communication, for accessing video. Audio, aside from music, is strangely missing - a void Holdcom is trying to fill with virtual tours and audio blogs. But before businesses dive into social media, they should be cautious. You never know what information is out there.