There are a lot of things in life we can’t control: traffic, the weather, our father-in-law’s Thanksgiving toast. All this lack of control can sometimes leave a person feeling a little, well, helpless. As much as Hollywood likes to romanticize a free-spirited approach to life (see the “manic pixie dream girl” trope), in reality, being subject to the whims of rush hour, mother nature, or how many brewskis pop-in-law decides to down before making his speech isn’t exactly a party. So when something comes along in life that we can control, why wouldn’t we jump on the opportunity to seize it?
You may have heard about the recent changes Twitter made to its Direct Messaging service that now prevents users from sending links via Direct Message that aren’t from Twitter, Instagram, Google or Facebook. While there have been some high-profile examples in recent years of companies back-tracking on a change in response to overwhelming user demand (remember the Netflix/Qwikster disaster of 2011?); for the most part, changes stick whether users like them or not. But even if your agency’s communications won’t necessarily be negatively impacted by this new Direct Message debacle, the larger point remains: why give up control to social media companies when you don’t have to?
While there’s some speculation about the reason for this change, its potential impact on private sector businesses and public sector organizations is undoubtedly negative. Many government agencies on Twitter use Direct Messages to personally reply to Followers with links guiding them to the agency website for more information or an answer to their question. Without the ability to include links in Direct Messages, an agency’s power to effectively connect with its stakeholders and drive traffic to its site can be significantly diminished. With the exception of a few changes in the past few years, compared to Facebook, Twitter’s platform has stayed relatively static since its launch in 2006. But for all those businesses and organizations that have come to rely on Twitter as a stable channel of communication, this recent change to Direct Messaging serves as a harsh reminder: when you rely solely on social media for your communications, you’re effectively giving up control.
Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the other wonderful social media channels out there have overwhelmingly changed the way government communicates with the public for good. They’ve given government agencies the chance to put a more personal face on their brand and connect with stakeholders when and how stakeholders want to connect. But although these channels can be an incredibly powerful part of the communications cocktail, they were always meant to be a supplementary ingredient, never the entire cocktail itself. Organizations that don’t have channels like email and SMS at the core of their communications plan run the risk of having their entire strategy disrupted at the click of a Twitter executive’s mouse. That’s why we recommend all of our GovDelivery clients focus on building a multi-channel approach to communications; one that retains agency control over stakeholder connection by putting email and SMS at the foundation of the strategy, with social media channels as additional channels to feed the foundation.
By moving the instability of social media from the core of your communications cocktail to a garnish on top that complements your email and SMS messaging, you remove the unknown factor from your communications plan and maintain greater control over your content. And in a world of such rapidly evolving digital landscapes, even your father-in-law would agree that that’s something to be thankful for.