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The Credibility Gap Between Social Media and Your Website

A new podcast interview I did with John Shea, public information officer at FEMA, about social media crisis communications confirms one of the conclusions of the 2009 Digital Readiness Report, which is this:

While social media channels are a great way to connect people with relevant information, there is a credibility gap between what organizations say about themselves via social media, and what they say about themselves on their own websites.

According to Shea, who runs new media at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, if people find FEMA’s information via Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, they’re often not convinced it’s entirely valid unless they can click through and verify that the same information is at FEMA.gov.

In the Digital Readiness Report, which was designed to determine which online communications skills are most sought after in today’s job market, we found that while hirers are demanding that candidates have social media communications skills, they are considerable less interested in web content management skills. In the report, we said we thought that was because most hirers are looking at social media as push or mass media channels, when in fact, they are emerging more as channels more making content discoverable online

What Shea confirms, is that distributing status updates via social media is only half of the equation. Unless FEMA “back-ends” their social media efforts with more, in depth content on their own website, people remain skeptical of whether FEMA’s tweets are officially sanctioned. If it’s true, why isn’t it at FEMA.gov, they wonder. And so now, as a result, it is.

Shea says FEMA’s off-network social media status updates are only seen as credible when they’re back-ended with links to on-network information (on their own website), so recipients can verify information by means of the authority of the FEMA.gov domain. As we said in the Digital Readiness Report, looking to hire social networkers who can’t manage content on your own domain is short sighted, since distributing links back to content hosted at your domain is a common use of status updates in social networking services.

It also suggests that organizations that decide to leverage a Facebook presence for social media engagement, without recognizing at least those discussions on their own domain, might also be seen as hypocritical or arrogant, by trying to isolate criticism from the place their brand calls home online.

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