Social media: Being Sir Galahad and not Daenerys Targaryen

The emails come in daily: How to use social media to promote your organization or business.

Of course, the interesting thing is that the companies selling their social media-focused services are using email (direct-to-you communication) to promote their products.

To be fair, they are probably promoting them as well via social media but their best line of marketing, at least for me, is to direct their pitch to my email inbox.

No question, though. Social media is a wonderful thing. (The grammarian in me wants to write “social media are wonderful things” … but that phrasing just sounds strange.)

Social media have aided democratization in various parts of the world and given voice literally to everyone willing or motivated to use it.

Diakon’s various social-media channels—we have many, many Facebook pages, for example, because the best social media are local—allow us to reach people directly and in ways that most interest them.

And there’s quite the variety: people discussing the care they received at a Diakon senior living community … others inquiring of Diakon Youth Services’ wilderness greenhouse about the availability of a particular native plant … and still others wishing the best for a youth in need of foster care or adoption.

Sometimes, the discussions are heart-warming.

I have my own Facebook account, of course. I like to post witty observations and occasionally, as over the Memorial Day weekend, an update on activities: my son and I worked three longs days doing major outside projects at his and my house.

About two years ago, though, I eschewed commenting on or posting anything political. I’ve broken that rule once or twice but overall stuck with it.

This topic is one that has been debated by countless others so I most likely am not adding anything new but the tone of some political posts—from both “sides”—makes me occasionally question the long-term impact of social media.

Now I’m no Chicken Little “the-sky-is-falling” person and recognize that most people can differentiate a personal rant from true news.

What occasionally gives me pause, though, is that some people reportedly get most of their news or commentary on politics and other important topics via social media or engage in debates that quickly deteriorate into anger. And that often serves no useful purpose.

A few years back I did get into a heated political discussion on Facebook with another Diakon staff member. Fortunately, we were smart enough to stop, pull back and recognize that our friendship is more important than engaging in such a debate in this particular forum.

And that was one more plank in my decision to pull back from such discussions.

At the same time, I continue to recognize the engagement value of social media, the wonderful connections organizations make with their publics via social media, the reconnections we personally can develop with people we haven’t seen in years and, yes, even the ability of social media to inform.
I just believe we need to be as smart—and as civil—as possible in how we use it.

By William Swanger, MA, APR
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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