Investor Relations

Terry's Topics

25 September 2012

SOCIAL MEDIA


Social media has arguably transformed the way many companies do business, particularly how they interact with the public.  However, as the business advantages of this new technology continue to grow, so does the ability of the media to be abused. 
 
Social media has the power to reach millions of people in under a minute and the conversations or posts can have dramatic effects on a company.  One exaggeration, mistake or error has the potential to reach a massive audience very quickly and can positively or negatively affect the business or even the stock price. While it is possible to delete a post, even deleted posts can leave behind a digital footprint that can continue to mislead or injure the affected business or individual. The result is that many companies have been forced to treat social media chat rooms like any other form of communications about their business—something that needs to be monitored and, when there are material misstatements, corrected as quickly as possible.  
 
Social media is a remarkably adept vehicle for rallying broad public support for causes, including shareholders of public companies.  Social media is also open to anyone; it doesn’t matter what is your education, experience or background; it is a digital democracy.  But all of the power and all of the openness of social media also creates the opportunity for abuse, since any anonymous poster has the ability to make blatantly false statements, defamatory comments and deceptive tactics for their own personal motives.  As long as you have an opinion, you have the opportunity to post.  
 
Recently, some of these abusive tactics began to occur on one of the social media sites that followed Samson, a site where posters would express their views about Samson and its business.  At a time when some disappointing developments had been announced, a few posters expressed angry and inflammatory opinions, and then the conversations, or “threads,” spun out of control to the point where there were several intentional misstatements and defamatory comments.  Samson complained to the social media site, which professes to monitor the posts on its site, and the site ultimately decided to shut down the Samson forum on its website.  
 
We appreciate that the social media world, including business forums like this one, is still in its infancy.  That is why the mechanisms for ensuring fairness and decency and avoiding damages to other parties have not yet been fully developed.  In the meantime, simply having the right to anonymously participate in this amazing new technology does not allow someone to injure others by making false or defamatory statements that would be actionable in a personally identified communication.  
 
Whilst most social media publishers do try to curtail these damaging posts, the offending posters are harder to identify than those who, for example, make a post that is profane or lewd or espouses racial hatred and so they are not immediately removed and the posters are not automatically penalized. We think that shareholder forums and other forms of social media need to be controlled more carefully and have a penalty that fits the damages caused by making untruthful statements that injure other persons or companies.  
 
These are just a few of the major challenges companies face today in the brave new world of social media.  Developing a strategy to maintain an overall positive public reputation is just one way to be proactive. 
 
 
Have a topic you would like to suggest for our blog? Please write us at Terry.Topics@SamsonOilandGas.Com, and we will consider covering it in a future Terry’s Topics.

 

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