Why Corporations Aren’t Good at Social Media

elephant butteA few weeks ago (time flies!), David and I drove to Tucson for my mom’s birthday. On the way back, we stopped at Elephant Butte Lake for a couple of nights. It’s a huge, man-made reservoir on the Rio Grande River in southern New Mexico. The landscape is often stark and desolate – and also full of amazing color and unearthly views.

We haven’t been doing much in the way of vacation lately – particularly time that’s not connected to work of some sort, like conventions – so this was a peaceful stop to make.  The inn we stayed at was a simple place and we ate mainly at the restaurant there. We spent some time gazing at the view and talking. This picture brings that feeling back for me.

So, many of you know I have a day job. The company I work for had about 150 employees when I started, lo these 17 years ago, and has now cracked 500. We’ve also gone to a shared technology system, with a newsfeed we’re all encouraged to post notices, too. Our internal version of social media. I’ve been trying to overcome my baseline grumpiness about the changes and become more active with this shared site.

Because I work from home (euphemistically referred to as a “satellite office”), I decided to post my cover for THE MARK OF THE TALA. After all, if I worked in one of the offices, I would have dragged my ARC in and passed it around like a newborn baby. Also, since this book is not erotica, I figured it was safe to share.

I didn’t want to take up a lot of the feed with information about my book though, so I just posted the cover and a note saying people could look on my website if they wanted to see more.

WELL.

Last night my supervisor emails me and lets me know that they took the post down. There’s no fall-out for me and the powers that be figure I showed only a “rare lack of judgment.” See, my website contains offensive material. Or, rather, provides access to it, which is against our Information Resource Policy.

(Doesn’t the Entire Internet provide this access???)

So, thus my wrist was slapped. Nobody is mad at me, but I feel oddly chagrined nonetheless. It’s been some time since I had any shadow of feeling that what I write is somehow unsavory. Yet, there it is. 

(Amusingly, I linked to my website instead of oh, say, Amazon because it seemed wrong to post anything reminiscent of a buy link. I suspect that would have passed muster, even though Amazon ALSO provides access to all those selfsame offensive materials as my website does.)

It’s interesting to me, however, in a broader perspective, to watch companies like mine try to cultivate the opportunities offered by social media while simultaneously attempting to enforce policies that control it. Social media is social, not corporate. It’s about people interacting, not soulless, sexless workers. What my company is trying to accomplish isn’t *really* about social media at all, but something dressed up to look like it. Kind of an Office Space-style version of Hawaiian Shirt Day, where we’re encouraged to relax – but not too much.

At any rate, consider me duly chastened. And more unwilling than before to post to the company newsfeed.

Fortunately, no one expects me to participate in Hawaiian Shirt Day.

PayPal Pain

It’s been all over the writer’s gossip circles this week, but a lot of you may not know what’s going on with Paypal.

This article gives a good summary of the situation. And the lovely and talented Stephanie Draven posted this excellent summary of the legal issues involved.

Essentially what’s going on is that PayPal – a company that processes online payments – has told some of its vendors that they cannot sell certain kinds of books. Smashwords, which is a self-publishing service, has agreed to comply, though the founder is unhappy. All Romance eBooks has apparently been asked to comply. What’s extraordinary about this is that PayPal is dictating what kind of erotica is okay to sell. While some of their no-no topics are consistent with many publishers – no rape for titillation, no bestiality, no pedophilia, no incest – they’ve verged into other areas as well, such as BDSM.

It’s not at all clear what kind of standard they’re applying. Even more unclear is why they get to. PayPal is a merchant attempting to apply pressure on other merchants dependent on their services to censor certain books.

Now I am a believer in access to books. To all books.

I’ve never subscribed to the idea that it somehow damages or poisons a person to read anything. All knowledge is worth having. It’s up to us, as thinking human beings, to decide what ideas to keep and which to discard. Also, I believe erotic fiction provides an outlet for enjoying the concept of a sexual practice that may never occur in real life.

Finally, I think allowing any censorship, on any basis, allows for censorship on other bases. One of my friends said a reader contacted her because she was upset about the presence of the “Christian Devil” in her books. It’s always an option, not to read. But other people should have the freedom to do so.

So, I’ve decided to close my PayPal account. I’m sorry, because I found their service convenient. I now have to mail a check where I once would have used PayPal. Some merchants, who only use PayPal, will no longer be accessible to me.

However, I cannot support their attempts at censorship.