An issue with social media: entitlement

Recently something happened through my personal twitter account involving a work issue that I’d like to share because it raises an issue with social media and the usage of it: entitlement.

As I’ve mentioned before I work for a few media companies – one of which is businessspectator.com.au – on the website like many media co’s we have blogs, Chris Joye’s property one in particular can get a bit contentious – as you’d expect in Australia.

One participant, I’ll call ‘Sally’, on Chris’s blog thread recently believed that at least one individual was signing in under two names and arguing the same side – effectively throwing the fairness out of the thread by creating a persona to agree with themselves.twitter-entitlement

Sally then did some digging through the About us section and found my twitter feed. Fine and dandy, no problems there.

Sally then alerted me to look into the situation. I did. But what happened next was completely new to me and unexpected. For the next few days Sally then asked me what happened as a result. I explained that I’d looked into the situation an the results of such efforts and any actions taken would remain within the company.

But Sally persisted – wanting to know if in fact she’d been right or wrong, and if Sally had been right, what specific actions had or would be taken.

It was a confronting situation. I didn’t want to dissuade Sally from being passionate about the website or the information, but at the same time this situation is no different to dozens of other work situations and as a general rule you simply don’t go around explaining in detail what happened, when, how etc to people outside the business – Commbank’s recent failings and subsequent explanations to media come to mind.

It’s not that I didn’t want to thank sally for raising the issue and feeling that she could bring it to me, (I did thank her directly) but I didn’t exactly know how to respond without looking like I was fobbing her off and being rude.

In the end though I had to be reasonably direct as being circuitous wasn’t getting the required result, it was only really then that Sally understood that I couldn’t discuss it. I guess I felt it could have been handled better, but I don’t know how.

But after ruminating on it for a while now it seems as though it does come down to an issue of entitlement – I felt it was a straight down the line work issue, but Sally felt she was coming along for the ride with me to find out the answer. Sally felt entitled to know the outcome. And in a way she was entitled to know part of it, but – and perhaps this is the tipping point – I don’t know whether Sally is entitled to know the whole thing, or whether she should be.

As social media and social networking is so new, and is still developing, sometimes some interactions feel like going on a first date – it can be a bit awkward, conversation can falter, you can be under or over polite in certain situations because you don’t know how the person will react, and by the end of it you hope at the very least you’ll be able to look that person in the eye next time you meet them.

Should outside people, like Sally, who alert you to situations like this one be entitled to know the whole thing including the exact details of any action taken? Further to this when you know that individual has they’re own blog and they’re active in an on-line discussion on your company blog – does the risk of them using the information to prove their point in an on-line forum and potentially embarrass you (and the company) outweigh the benefits of being open and transparent with them in the first place?

Could social media in effect engineer it’s own undoing by being too open? Where is there a happy medium?

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