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Fear, loathing and social media

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 29:  Cars drive by a ...
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It’s been a busy week for social media in places we’d never really expect to hear talking about it.

First, the US Marine Corps announced a one-year ban on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and the ilk, citing security concerns.

Then, the San Diego Chargers fined player Antonio Cromartie $2,500 after he tweeted about the poor chow at the team’s summer training camp. Teams fine players for speaking out all of the time, so this isn’t exactly a precedent, except that the speaking out in this case was using a digital media like Twitter.

So what does this all mean? Someone needs to do a bit of education.

Banning technology does little to stop the problem. I mean, it’s like slapping the hand of a kid. Even if you explain why they can’t do something, they’re just going to work that much harder to try to do it. This isn’t rocket science.

The real question is, how do organizations and institutions leverage social media and learn to control their message in a world where message control no longer exists? How do you reach audiences with the information you want them to have, while ensuring the negative stuff doesn’t run amok?

Women’s sports leagues in golf, soccer and basketball have embraced these social tools as a way to reach an audience that eludes them during the season — since their attendance tends to be lower for games — while established leagues are looking to clamp down.

Other than the somehow unpractical nature of having someone using their cell phone on the sidelines and the distraction it can be from the game and mixing it up with teammates, the real problem here — that the sports leagues and Marines share — is one word.

Fear.

If you don’t understand something, you shy away from it, rather than taking the time to understand it. You create redundant technology, because you don’t understand what people are really trying to do is reach out to people they’re closed off from. There are ample opportunities for teams and organizations to learn more about these social tools, how they work and how to create policies and strategies that help them thrive in a digital world.