Calgary flood 2013

Twitter: is it still optional in communications?

You seem to like Twitter a lot. Should it be part of our communications strategy?

It was a question posed to me during a recent job interview. Many of my friends should be surprised to hear I responded ‘not really.’

The company for which I was interviewing is based in a smaller city, one where social media — at least Twitter — hasn’t really taken off as a business communication tool.

Sure, I said, the competition is using it and that means we should be listening and posting when necessary. Twitter should be a bit player in the overall strategy, I said, but our key communications tools should be traditional media.

It made sense at the time.

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I know smart people, part 1

I know smart people.

They stimulate my brain. They challenge me. They even — occasionally — change my mind.

Doug Lacombe is one of those people. He’s an entrepreneur over at Communicatto, an integrated communications agency specializing in all things digital and social media. He takes a company’s online presence and whips it into shape.

He’s an entertaining speaker.


A bit of a comedian.

And a Maritimer.

That means we have to stick together.

I challenged Doug yesterday on a topic that’s been simmering in my brain for months. You see, during my job search, I noticed a lot of oil and gas companies had communications openings demanding social media skills.

I applied for some of them, mostly hesitantly, because I knew the oil and gas industry isn’t for me. Mostly, I learned at Shaw, the big corporation game isn’t my style.

In any case, Doug posted a link to his Communicato blog. Guest poster Kelly Ferrier wrote a piece on Kate Trgovac, a digital marketer I remember being at the first social media conference I ever attended four years ago.

Kate was key in Petro-Canada’s early entry into the social media landscape with the PumpTalk blog. It’s an excellent case study on big business engaging with customers who love to complain (oh you know it’s true, how often do you bitch about the price of gas?).

In the interview, The skinny on social media for oil and gas from Kate Trgovac, Kate talks about the current digital marketing trends facing oil and gas companies: crisis communications, mobile readiness and employee engagement.

And it sparked all of those doubts I had about oil and gas companies barging into our little corner of the world, those bastards who have put us at the mercy of the sweet sweet black gold.

So I asked Doug if he thought this signaled that social media had, at long last, jumped the shark.

He said:

I gave him that point. We’ve seen any number of cases where social media has been the saviour or downfall of a company in trouble spots: the famous Motrin Moms episode, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the FedEx guy tossing a computer monitor over a fence.

I also conceded social media is a terrific tool for human resources, instilling trust in potential employees and recruits, engaging current employees, and maintaining contact with temporary/seasonal workers.

But big business loves spin. The one concern I had with the whole thing was how polished or filtered the message would be.

Translation: how natural or authentic would these companies allow their employees to be on their accounts.

After all, that’s the very heart of social media, isn’t it? You have to be yourself, be honest and be open to letting your followers see who you really are.

And Doug said:

You see how he likes to drive home a point with a little humour, yeah? That’s why I love Doug.

Of course, I’d also forgotten the No. 1 rule behind social media: if you don’t want to hear what someone or some company has to say, don’t follow that account.

It’s simple really. But sometimes I get all caught up in an idea and forget the most basic of rules, like using a fill flash when I’m shooting on a sunny day.

And it just takes a little reminder from the smart people, like Doug, to get me back on track.

Thus, I will leave him with the last word on this, looking forward to more discussions.