It’s all about authority

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in social_media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The twitterverse is all a-buzz with the news that Janet, a Twitter user who seemed to be an Exxon-Mobil employee, is not working for or on behalf of Exxon. Jeremiah Owyang interviewed Exxon’s spokesman Alan Jeffers about “Janet” here.

The thing that struck me from the interview is now this very conservative company is probably even further from using social media than they ever where. When Jeremiah asked the spokesman if Janet is a real employee would her twitter use be ok, Mr Jeffers said (in part):

“It’s not really relevant, there are only people that are authorized and not-authorized, even people with the best intentions, may not know what the appropriate position is or the facts”

Jeremiah listed his key takeaways:

  1. Lack of identity confirmation continues to plague the web
  2. Companies must monitor their brand
  3. An opportunity for the real Exxon to step forward
  4. The community (myself included) need to first validate identities
  5. Legal and Trademark issues complicate

I think the central issue here is evaluating sources. How can you be sure that the source you are reading is a credible source? (Determining this type of information is Information Science 101, so hire an IS major today!!) There are many ways to determine authority, in fact the question of Janet being an Exxon representative was answered because someone reached out to real-world contacts to talk about the Exxon twitter account, and found out the company was not sponsoring the account.

I’ve found a couple of accounts and blogs that at first glance seemed to be officially sanctioned by our organization, but when I did a little digging I found out they have been put up by our customers and partners. I think it’s important to manage your brand, but it’s also important to have a strategy when you have a brand that people like so much they won’t wait for you to initiate social media contact.

I also think as educators we are going to bear the burden of helping people understand how to evaluate information. Especially in a competitive industry, our learners must have the ability to determine if information they read on a blog (or from a tweet) is credible, or if the info contains unsupported information.

Teaching learners these skills is the topic of my first brown-bag Knowledge Worker Skills presentation this quarter: how to find, scan, and evaluate information using RSS feeds and readers.  I’m trying to do my part to get everyone up to speed on these topics.

So, what do you think? What can the Exxon twitter scandal teach corporate learning professionals?

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