Monday, July 15, 2013

Censorship and the City

We had a meeting for the store workers last week to kick off the new semester.  When asked about any ideas we had I suggested we begin a store Twitter account - all the employees could have the login details and be able to post about merchandise, deals, contests, alumni updates, pictures and general fun stuff.  We've been talking about this for a while - the library has one, admissions has one and the school in general has one.  The library is our closest comparison - their Twitter feed is really only for current students and alumni to follow, they post funny things, videos that they make, pictures, competitions to win free sheet music etc etc - it is a good way to keep in touch with the school community.  The library like the store is a school hub where students gather every day.
With approval from the manager I opened an account last week.  My fellow employees were happy to have a way to give the store a personality and promote it a little.  People began posting - we had pictures of us at work, news about when we would be throwing out food that people could come and grab for free, shout outs to people who had recycled their coffee cups, congratulations to graduates performing in shows.  Our followers included the afternoon receptionist, the financial aid guys, the library and several students and a couple of alums.  People were becoming aware and my managers were happy about the way it had excited the workers about representation for the store.

Until today when marketing came by and told us it had to be shut down because 'something inappropriate had been posted'

  1. Congrats to the ........... current 4th semesters and grads who killed it at the Mamma Mia call today!
  2. coming to the Stratford arms our new ............. mini store
  3. just gave a fabulous presentation of the store to future student Emily and her mom Candace
  4. Hey everyone!!! You should follow the !! Why? Because I work there!
  5. Hello to my friend at the !!! You are the nicest kids in town :) (ooh ooh ohh oooohh)
Was it one of these things, Mr Marketing Department? I can see how this content would be considered, no I can't.

Our assistant manager went to talk to Mr Marketing and when he asked what specifically was inappropriate they were unable to provide examples.
Later on he received an email to say yes, it did have to be shut down, the company that runs the online store already has a Twitter and this one was superfluous.

*Cue Tessa's rage*

Noone knows about the online store.
The online store is mostly relevant for people who do not yet attend the school.  The company running it have no connection to the school.  They do not know the students or what is happening in the building that day.
The aim of our Twitter was to make ourselves a stronger part of the school community - this is a generation of young people currently in attendance who are all about social media and connecting with each other in that way.  Being able to tweet @ their school is part of our version of school spirit - we don't have sports games that they can cheer at or teams representing us in competitions.
It was also a good way to get all the workers involved in something fun - it bonds us as a team, having a project that we are all involved in, as the rotating shift schedule means you only ever see a couple of the other employees every time you work.
It was a way to get the persona of the store out there - to make it not just a taken-for-granted convenience but something with a pulse that matters to the people who go there.

Perhaps it seems silly to expect a Twitter to do all that but you know what? It was already working. Having it shut down makes me feel like the Machine thinks we don't matter.  The parts of that Machine come by every day for their sandwiches and their iced teas and their protein bars.  To have something be successful it is important that the people behind it take pride in it.  Our crew was taking pride in the store but those in power clearly don't.  It is unjust and unprompted.
What happens then to the library Twitter? From a marketing perspective it is as irrelevant for them to have one as for us.  They are purely internal as are we - current students and those already graduated alone will benefit from knowing what is going on their (or from seeing their friends and peers in silly fun videos).  Will the library Twitter have to go too? And the Instagram? And the Pinterest? If we're talking superfluous then surely three - in fact I think there's more - social networking sites for one school organisation is too much.  If that's how we're playing.
Perhaps the company running the online store would like to come and spend a couple of weeks getting to know all the students, faculty and grads who we see on a daily basis so they can actually have some relevance to the people they will supposedly be representing.

I have avoided saying the name of the institution at which this today occurred, and have also blanked it from the Twitter messages.  Apparently that is now necessary to protect my interests and perhaps they would sue me for mentioning the name if this was seen by any of them.  Gosh I hope it is.

I am biting my tongue hard...and weighing up the pros and cons of putting forth a prepared and reasonable argument to prove that this is, err, bullshit.

Just in case I missed something inappropriate here are some of the pictures Tweeted.  You be the judge.


A sandwich that we used in a pun
Fruit and muffins
The charming Anik
The store
A first semester who was having a stressful day but was happy to smile for us

Vulgarity in the extreme.

Dear Machine,
At least if you want to shut something down, don't be a vile coward and lie to our faces about the reasons why.

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