Now this story requires some back story but is important for an important point in tight knit digital communities and why you should never assume students are social media experts.
A few years back I was a member of the Brunel Climbing club, and every year I could I would try to go to Annual Dinner. Every year though that I went there was a major accident. The first year a member went to clip in his rope only to fall, get his arm caught in the rope as he fell and was left hanging from his arm (causing permanent scaring). The second year a student luckily had a helmet on when there was a rock fall and her head was saved, but the helmet was almost split in two. The final trip involved a friend being dropped by a fresher leading to a shattered wrist.
The events that lead to that event involved
- a committee who decided to go to a seperate site to the freshers and non-committee members they were there to protect,
- a non committee member having to talk to the indoor climbing centre that everyone had completed a basic belay course and on a leading course
- myself and the finally injured other ex-member climbing by ourselves a number of times while all the other climbers were slowly getting ready.
- finding one of the freshers on their own and asking if he wanted to climb with us (as everyone else had paired off)
- After his first climb (and him claiming he was about to climb 6a-c climbs and a great belayer and showing he understood the basics with the rope) offered to belay my partner so I could rest after a tiring climb.
- When my partner had reached the top of the wall he began to lower her only to completely let go of the rope when he panicked when he realised she was descending too fast.
- Everyone panicked while we got an ambulance (luckily the fallen victim is a health professional and there was a doctor climbing behind us) and people ran off to inform the non-committee member leading the trip and I called the committee members who had headed to an wall else where. The non-comittee member who had lead the trip to the indoor wall was informed and cried out “Why did no one tell you he’s not safe! He didn’t pass his belaying test!” Other current members also confirmed his inability to belay and that they were holding their breathe when originally the centre was going to make everyone show their belaying abilities before being able to enter as they knew he and another student would fail.
- As someone who had an open ticket from where we were (and not a current member) I went with my broken companion to hospital with her s shaped wrist to find it was shattered.
- She asked me there to make a statement of exactly what happened that day in case she needed to take any legal action against the centre. Once i returned I started it right away while everything was fresh and sent it to her to use.
A few weeks later she told me her lawyer was taking action against the SU because the fault was actually with them rather than the centre as they not only had all but one committee member been at the other site (and the only committee member present was not trained in anyway to handle the situation or leading the group), technically lying to the centre or their “test” not being to a suitable level or warning non members of capabilities of its members who were also on the trip. There were a number of other issues but based on the statements provided from myself and others.
When the SU found out that the action was against them statements from current students started to be removed on their request, with some current students coming to me in tears sometimes because of the bullying they had received from the club and the SU about making their time at the University difficult. As you can understand they had to do what was best for them but as the only graduated member and only witness to the whole event the only statement that remained was mine that was written on the day of the event stating what happened with no sway against the SU. Nicki was asked not so politely to leave the club’s Facebook group, talk to members or even return to the ex-bums group which has no association to the SU. The treatment to Nicki while shocking was expected as they were trying to protect themselves.
So that was over a year, so why is this important today and why does it involve digital communities? Earlier today a girl asked if she could join the society even though she will be studying at a separate University but living locally. Based on my experience of that day, having worked as a Clubs and Societies Coordinator at Bournemouth SU and all of the other accidents I was very cautious with my response with “No due to insurance issues, especially after what happened at annual dinner a few years ago”. I was clear to not be specific but was clear enough to give an answer of that there is a reason and a consequence to why it is not possible. I also updated her on how girls often arrange an out of lesson training session so there are no boys about trying to show off or distract.
A minute later my comment is removed and replaced with one claiming it was for “clarity” claiming this is a group for the BUMs and not for the wall and the answer giving instead being unclear just stating to go to another group (with no link). As this is a group that is normally very kind and welcoming I responded again commenting on the “clarity” and repeating about girls often grouping together.
It isn’t long till I get a private message that is full of slander and incorrect information, but also poor community engagement. Tom Mulder, tells me off for even pointing to that accident (and later to any accident occurring ever), especially when I’m apparently suing the Student Union (having not met with a lawyer apart from a networking event) and trying to use it as a play to win over support for my case (which doesn’t exist).
Annoyed at the slander, rude approach and poor management of the whole affair I make him aware that I in no way was trying to cause problems, not suing anyone, or was happy with the approach that he has taken. I gave advice from managing social media campaigns and profiles for so many organisations on how to manage issues in the future so not to annoy any one else. I even apologuise for being annoyed but stated that I just wanted to set the record straight only to have a backlash of even more slander, rude and horrendous messages which included claims that the incident was both mine and Nicki’s fault, that I had been personally chasing students to make statements that were full of lies in the weeks that followed the incident, my own employment history and expertise questioned and finally impolitely asked to leave the group.
For someone who has over 6 years of social media experience, with so many successful campaigns under my belt, my own profile clearly stating my experience working in Student Unions, even the clear insults to my knowledge and experience in those fields was mocked and tossed a side while claims that could not be at all feasible.
For someone not even holding a rope, up a rope was who was resting her tired muscles at the time while the accident in questioned happened… I am still trying to get round how this accident was my fault? Or how I was able to chase students for fake statements when I have talked to very few people who were there since it happened due to living over 100 miles away and having a lot on my plate at the time. I am struggling even more that he still thought I was taking action against the Student Union and the club when I have never met a lawyer since the accident other than to take their photograph at a fundraising event for work or over a sex tape scandal I had to manage at another job.
So here is a student who, rather than taking critism on how to manage issues and communities, he starts using slander and lies instead, sending three messages, each one filled with more and more vile lies and mockery and this is not a stand a long case. Yes this is the first where I have had emotional ties due to the wonderful years I have spent with the club learning about a wonderful sport and about amazing people but I have seen so many more students and graduates like this at the helm of a social media platform and group.
So why do so many companies still continue to hire graduates just because they have their own Facebook or Twitter account? Even as I was leaving an organisation, I was shocked when I requested that clear social media experience was important for the new candidate for the CEO to come out with “But all students know how to use social media, right?”
A clear answer is no. If you are going to hire a graduate at least look for someone who has done a marketing course or has clear examples of campaigns that they have run for societies and groups. As social media exploded when I started University, there are so many 25-27 year olds that will have a much better idea of how campaigns evolve and grow, but also where to look for the next trends, or even how we found ways to push the rules.
So I hope that someone reads this and finds one story that will make them really consider who they are hiring to be the first point of contact that your customers face, especially when so many like my self will go to Twitter before calling the complaints line!