Don’t know if you’ve followed this story, but Cooks Source Magazine was forced to shut down after it was discovered that its editor had been using copyrighted content without permission.
The story itself is very interesting to anyone who cares about copyright issues, but what I’d like to discuss here today is the power of social media and how to handle it.
The gist of the story: The Cooks Source editor republished a blog article without permission. When the blogger had contacted her, asking for an apology and for a donation to be made in lieu of payment, the editor basically replied that anything on the Internet is fair game and that she did nothing wrong. The blogger then published the story on her blog, and the whole thing exploded on Facebook, causing the magazine advertisers to pull out, which led to the demise of the magazine.
It’s important to understand that the issue here was not that someone had made a good faith mistake and was severely punished by an out-of-control social media backlash. It wasn’t even a case of knowingly doing something wrong (using content without permission), then profusely apologizing and making it right. The real issue was the refusal of the magazine to make things right.
Had the magazine made an honest attempt at making things right, it could have been saved. They could have acknowledged their mistake, admitted their lack of understanding of copyright law and their eagerness to learn. They could have used social media – their own blog if they had one and their Facebook page – to issue an apology, to announce that they had indeed made a donation, to say “I’m so sorry. This will never happen again.”
The backlash here wasn’t because someone had made a mistake, innocent or otherwise. It was because someone refused to take responsibility for their mistake, apologize and make things right.
Even when faced with a story such as this, the conclusion need not be “Social media is a scary thing, we’d better stay out of it.” On the contrary. The conclusion should be, “Wow. Social media has a lot of power. We’d better have our own social media channels so that we can use that power to represent ourselves, our beliefs and our goals; and we’d better follow what others are saying about us in social media, so that if anything does go wrong, we can make it right immediately and publicly, before things escalate and get out of control.”
Social media has a lot of power. Use it to your advantage.