In my last post I tossed out the question regarding etiquette for using Twitter to broadcast private conversations you happen to overhear. Good fun, or even good material for stand-up comedy, or just inappropriate?
This is the craze all over the professional world right now. The NFL, the military, the scientific community, the theater/acting world, and college football are just some of those struggling with “… to Tweet, or not to Tweet.”
But the SEC (football conference, not the regulatory body) recent action takes the prize for crazed reaction without considering the consequences. I can just imagine the conversation: “I know, let’s just make it illegal for anyone to send anything about our games. That’ll work.”
Seriously, the SEC is expected to release today it’s formal ban on all social media during SEC games. Their ban extends to the average fan reporting on the game via Twitter. It reads:
Ticketed fans can’t ‘produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event.’
Why? The SEC has a $3 billion deal with CBS for coverage rights of the games. Apparently, they think they should be the only ones to give access to what happens at football, basketball, and other events. And, what’s more, they believe they can keep anyone else from sharing anything to anyone else.
I couldn’t agree more with Adam Ostrow on Mashable:
For the moment, these policies seem a lot more grounded in fear than reality. Sure, these days someone could theoretically live stream a game from their camera phone. But a shaky, low resolution video from the upper deck of Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly the same as watching FOX’s telecast on your big screen TV. Social media should be viewed a fantastic compliment to sports that is good for both fans and the TV networks, but at the moment, it seems that’s anything but how it’s being perceived.
There are real issues for sure. The contract with CBS is huge, and its how people make a living. But their fear is driving them to a policy that will have much greater negative impact on that contract, and their bottom line, than had they done nothing.
Don’t try to control the world of social media. Find relevance. When you do, you add value to your enterprise. When you don’t, you hurt yourself more than you hurt.
Two weeks ago, the NFL started clamping down hard requiring its players to not text information and not to use Twitter as reported by the NY Times.
In that story, however, I loved comment in the NY Times by nose tackle Jason Ferguson. He’s weighing when it’s worth the fine. Hilarious.
I don’t have an account (Twitter). I was thinking about getting one until I got the information. O.K., won’t get it now. Can’t do it. I don’t want to get fined, not yet.
Consider the broad action by the NFL and some teams (like the Green Bay Packers) in contrast with what the NY Jets are doing. It was reported today the NY Jets are actually encouraging their players to use Twitter.
We really made a conscious decision that we were going to embrace social networking because it’s an outgrowth of our motto that we talk about internally: Remove the barriers. Football, more than other sports, probably has more barriers that you have to overcome. With the helmet, you don’t really get to see players’ faces or expressions. twitter enables you to communicate with players directly, one-on-one. Matt Higgins, EVP of business operations for the Jets
In my view, that is finding relevance.
It’s ironic to read ESPN’s reporting of the NY Jets actions given their own stated position acted on earlier this month. ESPN has implemented a policy for all of its employees that amounts to only using Twitter if it benefits ESPN. You can see coverage here on Deadspin.com for latest and reactions. The deal is their currency is news and information, so ESPN is grasping at whatever control it believes it has to require its employees to not use Twitter for anything related to sports. The full memo is very strong in its constraints — you can see it here on Mediaite with the full memo at the bottom of the post.
Again, why not find relevance over asserting control in this way? ESPN’s personalities have a huge following on Twitter, and it is because of who they are, how they talk, and what they share. Trying to assert editing control over that audience of fans is directly contrary to why they follow in the first place: unvetted access to the people they trust, like, or enjoy listening to.
There’s got to be a way to find relevance and drive greater loyalty to ESPN.
In some cases, Twitter’s open access has more obvious reasons to be shut off, or at least re-direct. I previously wrote about the banning of Twitter at certain scientific conferences in which confidentiality of material being presented is paramount to intellectual property rights issues at play (pick up more of that story here if interested).
The military is starting to do the same thing. About the same time as the NFL made its announcement, the Marines declared a total ban on social media networks, including Twitter. The Marines’ ban is said to last for one year while the military makes a full determination what to do. They cite security concerns, of course.
But, even with the military, it’s interesting to note that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has a Twitter account and over 5,800 followers. So, it’s about finding relevance and not trying to assert total control, even in high-level security situations like these two. Cut and dry bans are just crazy and short-sighted in my view.
Finally, here is yet another interesting example to consider. Is it appropriate, or not, for a casting director to live-Tweet information and thoughts about the actors auditioning in a closed, private casting call? The acting industry is now facing this very issue.
A story in the NY Times covers a recent controversy involving casting director Daryl Eisenberg and her comments shared about what she was seeing/hearing during a recent audition. Eisenberg shared a few tweets like these:
If we wanted to hear it a different way, don’t worry, we’ll ask
If you are going to sing about getting on your knees, might as well do it and crawl towards us … right?
Eisenberg defended herself even before people got up in arms citing the “there is no rule” defense:
There is NO rule/guideline against Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Friendster. Freedom of speech. Ever heard of it?
But, the Actors Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, and others got involved and she has since agreed to not use Twitter in the audition room. The main argument made by the union folks is:
“It’s a very long road for an actor to get from seeing the casting notice to getting that audition. To have it mocked is unfair to the actors and to the other people who are working on the particular project. It’s very simply that there is an expected level of respect and professionalism, and these values were violated.” Maria Somma of Actors’ Equity Association
Part of that defense strikes me as a bit too sensitive–I mean, these people are seeking a career that is very public, get some thicker skin than that. But, it points out the absolute need we have in these various dimensions of public and private life to define what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to using technology such as Twitter.
Personally, I don’t believe the answer is hurry up and ban Twitter–that’ll fix it! Actually, it won’t. It will just cause bigger and different problems, long-term.