I had a meeting with a client who was in his late 50’s yesterday. This client admitted that he needed help understanding social media at the 30,000 foot level because while he has no interest in “getting involved in these social media sites”, he realized that he better get a handle on things because it was “the way everything is heading”. I explained to him that, generally speaking, there was an inverse relationship between one’s age and the likelihood that he/she was a participant in the Social Web. I told him there’s no need to feel bad about not understanding it as long as he recognized the need to embrace it.
The fact that so many “executives” fall into this older demographic helps to explain why some organizations are slower in getting around to having a comprehensive social media and Web strategy. So So it’s not surprising that there is no greater poster child for a failure with “social media” than Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian.
Polian has long been the cranky, egotistical executive who comes across as hard to like. Polian’s the kind of guy who will take his ball and go home, rather than face the music, even if it’s warranted. Yet the reality of social media is that you have to take the good and the bad, that the newly social nature of media means you can’t avoid criticism. Nobody is perfect.
Part of reason every organization need a comprehensive, well-integrated social media policy is due of this new reality: Some of your customers are angry or disgruntled and they are talking about it via social media. Businesses still can not get a handle on the fact that they are no longer in control of the message, incorrectly thinking that ignoring this criticism will make it go away. This impact is really magnified in sports, where the “customers” have a deeper emotional connection to the “product”. When your team loses (and it happens to every team), your fans are going to have a visceral reaction.
So a day after the Colts got their asses handed to them by the Houston Texans, Bill Polian tried to dodge criticism by blocking the live-streaming of his long-standing weekly radio show. Colts fans were instantly suspicious. When Colts Blog Stampede Blue emailed 1070 the Fan, they got this bizarre response:
The play-by-play current airing is subject to blackout rules, and cannot be heard on this stream. Regular programming will resume after the game.
I’ll echo Stampede Blue’s reaction: “Um, what?”
There’s no “play-by-play” to black out. But Polian surely realizes that the Internet audience is far more likely to include those who may transcribe and repeat his words in a manner that may expose inconsistencies or express criticism of Polian.
On terrestrial radio, the audience is most likely to include folks include to nod along with Polian, including a local media that the team does a nice job of keeping under its thumb.
Within minutes of the reports by Stampede Blue and then Pro Football Talk, plenty of folks were sharing the reports via Twitter.
Every sports team needs to develop some thick skin and jump in to the shark pit. Do you lose a lot of games? Then you probably need a diplomatic punching bag to take the brunt of the social media backlash. Even if you win a lot, like the Colts, on the rare occasions you lose, you’re still going to get backlash. So just accept it and deal with it, because you can’t just ignore it.