Remember when social media was shiny, new and exciting – or to some people ominous, threatening and scary?
Now it is totally embedded in our daily lives to the point where we no longer think of it as anything other than normal.
In fact, this morning on BBC Breakfast two prominent stories summed up this fundamental shift.
Firstly the Beeb featured a Scottish story about a fare-dodging, foul-mouthed passenger, who was thrown off a busy train by a burly traveller.
The entire incident was videoed on another passenger’s mobile phone and has now gone viral on YouTube. That’s the only reason it even made local news services – let alone the might of the BBC’s flagship morning news show.
Secondly, the Beeb also reported how increasing numbers of winter callouts place pressure on the volunteer mountain rescue teams in the Lake District.
Those getting into trouble often use sat navs, apps on smartphones or even print outs from Google Maps to plan routes – while the old-timers in the rescue squad were urging walkers to stay low-tech, by carrying a basic OS Map, a compass and a torch.
This wasn’t a case of some grizzled outdoors type missing the tech bus – the rescue service spokesman cheerfully urged walkers to get themselves on YouTube and check out the treasure trove of videos with advice on how to stay safe in the hills and mountains over winter. Video again.
Why is this important? One reason worth considering is that put forward by Clay Shirky, the author and New York University professor, who says:
“Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous and finally so pervasive as to be invisible that the really profound changes happen. For young people today, our new social tools have passed normal, are heading to ubiquitous and invisible is coming.”
With these thoughts firmly on my mind I was on my way into work today, while listening to a another social media expert, Shel Holtz, one half of the superb For Immediate Release podcast.
Shel’s latest offering was a talk on a subject he is passionate about – why businesses should stop blocking employee access to social media (have a listen to the podcast here – the case is compelling).
He mentioned how one giant car maker took steps to block access to social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, amid fears it would cause worker productivity to dip. However, the company kept open access to YouTube – because of the huge wealth of training videos and material available there. YouTube again.
We may not yet have reached the invisibility of social media mentioned by Clay Shirky, but there’s little doubt we’re getting close when viral mobile phone videos are a mainstay of the BBC news, ageing mountain rescuers advise walkers to get safety tips from YouTube and car manufacturers name the video platform as a vital training resource.
Here’s the thing, though: while consumption of YouTube video is now entirely mundane, the production of video, particularly useful and informative video by business, is still in its infancy. Companies of all sizes are still nonplussed by how to use this powerful medium – or need convinced that they should use it all.
The grainy, wobbly fare dodging video has now achieved more than 775,000 views, been featured by the national broadcaster and provoked debate across the country on whether the burly do-gooder was right or wrong to take the law in to his own hands.
However, where is the response video from ScotRail (there isn’t even a written respone on their website media page)? The company has issued a carefully worded corporate statement which could have been far more impactful if delivered by a genuinely concerned company executive. Of course, that may be just too sensitive at the moment, with the police investigating the incident and imminent legal action likely.
Even if that is the case, where is the video explaining the company’s advice for future passengers who may be confronted by an abusive or troublesome travellers? Should they sit tight and say nothing? Or should they step in to offer verbal support to harassed train staff?
Let’s not forget the foul-mouthed teen who was ejected from the train, who has variously claimed he had misplaced his ticket, was sold the wrong ticket or was half asleep (and as a result confused and disorientated) when confronted by the inspector.
This reinforces how ScotRail would benefit from easy-to-find videos aimed at passengers – advice on purchasing the correct ticket; how to use the ticket vending machines; or how to resolve a situation if you find yourself on a train having lost a valid ticket and without the funds to pay for a replacement.
The reality is that ScotRail has no presence on YouTube (in fact, this claims to be the Scotrail (sic) channel, but I assume is a fake). No videos at all that I could find.
Video - but only for adverts.
That’s also true for the company’s corporate website, where the only video I could find was a link to a TV advert – and disappointingly that ad was on the FAQ page, the exact place that might most benefit from easy to follow ‘How To’ videos.
This all seems even more of an irony, when you consider the company has a page on its website dedicated to giving advice to rail enthusiasts who want to shoot pictures or videos on ScotRail stations and property.
No slight intended on ScotRail. The majority of businesses of all sizes still seem painfully slow to recognise and benefit from the power of video as part of the communication mix.
So what lessons can your business learn from the ScotRail fare dodge video? How about this: The technology which delivers video is now so pervasive as to be invisible – which means that your business can no longer afford to be.
Your customers now expect to find at least some kind of visible, useful and relevant presence on YouTube or other video platforms. Many customers will go to YouTube as the first place they search for information, making it a massive search engine in its own right, just like parent company, Google.
If you want to find out what affordable, online video could do to benefit your business, give me a call.