Social Media and disabilities

Earlier this week, Tim and I sat on a panel at a social media training in Columbus. The training was mostly for PR people and the like who work in the disabilities community, but other interested parties were welcome.

I found  that there’s a lot of fear associated with social media. Perhaps people are afraid of slander. Or the fact that a lot of what goes on is going to be out of their control (until they delete it). Or it’s the fear of the unknown.

I’m not trying to be Cooly McCoolgirl or anything, but I have never been scared of social media, and it takes a lot of patience for me to understand why someone is. Perhaps I am not afraid because I was what the social media gurus call an “early adopter” of facebook. I joined in 2005, and I have always been interested in how easy it is to get your voice out there on the internet.

Working for a government organization you have to be careful with things, most definitely. But both Tim and I tried to encourage everyone in attendance to just take the plunge and do it.

I was chatting with a friend who works for Apple out in California about this. He said a company who doesn’t have any sort of social media is probably already obsolete. I tend to agree, if they don’t jump on really soon.

This is where people get their information now. At least the people who will be running the country in the very near future. They like that they can interact more directly with a company this way, by writing on their wall or tweeting about it.

Case in point- blogger Heather Armstrong, from Dooce.com (warning, some content may be NSFW, but it’s not too bad) tweeted a few times about some bad service she got from buying a washer and dryer. This pretty much scared the crap out of the company and they immediately helped her out. Granted, she’s pretty big in the web world, and holds a lot of influence. But this is an example of how social media can make or break someone. You can read about her saga here.

To wrap up this sort of nonsensical post- one thing I mentioned on that panel, that sums up everything I think about social media and the disabilities community – Social Media, facebook, twitter, etc helps to humanize our systems.

It makes everyone on equal footing, be it an person that is served, or a small service provider agency. We are all the same. Take the bureaucracy out of it, and think about the people. Think about making your organization more accessible and open to discussion.

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