The Personal Always Wins Over the Institutional on Social Media
Not surprisingly, given the topic, a recent piece at BuzzFeed about the high-profile tweeting habits of two NBC staffers has sparked a wide range of responses, most of them snarky. There’s nothing Media Twitter loves (or loves to hate) more than an article that is all about Media Twitter.
1) Taking material from their employer and using it to bolster their own Twitter followings, and/or
2) Using content from other news outlets to do the same thing, without adding any kind of insight or commentary apart from maybe an emoji.
From the story: “Critics — many of them other reporters — see it as as drafting off the success of someone else’s tweets. They see Griffin or Jaffy’s emojis as ways of adding their own brand on top of someone making or breaking actual news while adding very little value of their own.”
I don’t see much truth in this kind of criticism, to be honest. Many of those I’ve seen slamming Jaffy and Griffin for doing this (and Yashar Ali, who is quoted praising the two) do something very similar themselves, but haven’t gotten the same kind of following and are likely jealous.
Also, to journalists who spend every waking moment checking the newswire (i.e., Twitter) and know every nuance of every story, Jaffy and Griffin may not be seen as adding much, or be seen as drafting off the work of others. But at however small a level, they are providing a service to readers, and they promote the work of the journalists they link to. That’s good enough for me.
The part that interests me the most is the criticism that they are taking content from NBC and using it without permission in a way that benefits their Twitter brand. As a number of others have pointed out, the fact that some of this criticism comes from within NBC itself just reinforces how behind the curve much of that organization still is.
This kind of pushback reminds me of when I was promoting the idea of social media platforms like Twitter as a tool for journalism, as the first social-media editor at the Globe and Mail in Toronto. The same kind of arguments were made — and that was almost 10 years ago.
The thinking then was that the Globe itself needed to get all of the attention, and so only the institutional account should be tweeting the news. In part, this was because some editors were concerned that individual writers would get larger brands than the paper, and then take all those followers with them when they left (which is in fact exactly what happened in many cases).
That kind of fear may be understandable, but still futile. The fact is that in almost every case, a personal account on Twitter — even a bad one, or one that adds no more original content than an emoji — is always going to be more engaging and more effective than an institutional one. Social media is called that because it is designed to be social, and no one wants to be social with a faceless institutional brand.
If it is smart, NBC will give Jaffy and Griffin whatever leeway they need, and build whatever it can around them while they are still around. The more it tries to control them and their tweeting, the less effective they will be.