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The medium is the message

By Mari-Len De Guzman
| www.cos-mag.com

If your company is like many organizations these days — including mine — you’re probably either on or just getting on the social networking bandwagon.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have evolved from a mere social tool for expanding one’s friendships and connections online to a business vehicle for getting an organization’s message across a diverse group of audience. I say “diverse” because the Internet is no longer something exclusive to the Gen X techies of the modern world. Recent statistics indicate that Internet penetration in North America is now over 77 per cent, and according to data from Nielsen, 75 per cent of Internet users worldwide visit a social network or blog when they go online.

Many companies have started to extend their online presence beyond their websites by setting up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, just to name a few, and using them as a vehicle to expand their reach and drive people back to their websites, where they can provide more meat to their message.

On the other side of this phenomenon are the wait-and-see-types. Those organizations that are not quite ready and, quite frankly, have yet to understand the value social media could bring to their business or their cause.

So what is the value of this social media trend to the cause of safety? While I can’t presume to know the answer to this, I do know that many safety practitioners are active social media users — whether in an official capacity or personal level. I know this because I run into them on the social media sites I’ve set up for COS. (If you don’t believe me, ask @CSSE, @AEMStore, @SafetyGirl67 or @pidguy — we follow each other around on Twitter.)   

I do know that social media sites are increasingly playing the role of a “go-to” entity for real-time information, especially in times of crisis or emergency — when critical information usually comes in trickles from traditional channels.

A messenger has but one purpose — deliver the message to the intended recipient. Whether that message is delivered in person, on physical paper or through a web page, doesn’t really matter as long as the message gets through.

The phrase, the medium is the message, holds true here. How you effectively communicate safety to younger workers will probably be different than when you communicate with the older employees. The message is the same, but the messenger or the tools for delivering the message may vary for a more effective outcome.

At your next safety meeting, ask your team: How are we communicating safe work practices to our workers? Are they getting it? It’s one thing to tell your workers to be safe; getting them to absorb and put that message into practice is a whole different ballgame.

As for social networking — it’s just another medium for your message.

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Mari-Len De Guzman is the editor of Canadian Occupational Safety. You can contact her at mdeguzman@annexweb.com.

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