Social Networking union style
It seems that no campaign is complete these days without someone setting up the ubiquitous accompanying Facebook group. Some of these have been really successful, some really haven’t. I’m a big fan of anything that can help unions organising but I think there are a couple of potential pitfalls in using Facebook so liberally.
The first is that Facebook isn’t a substitute for doing all the other things you need to do if you want to run a successful campaign. Getting loads of people to sign up to a Facebook group to show their support for your campaign is good, but in and of itself its of limited value. Few employers are likely to buckle because a couple of thousand (in most cases actually a couple of hundred or dozen) sign up to a Facebook group calling on them to give union recognition/treat their workers fairly/honour the agreement they have with the union etc. Facebook may be a ‘sexy’ element of most campaigns these days, but I’m not sure how effective it’s really been in the majority of cases.
The second big drawback is the lack of control that users have over the information that is gathered via Facebook, and how you can use that information. Eric Lee has explained this, and some of the other potential pitfalls of using Facebook and other proprietary social networking sites, very succinctly here.
All of which is not to say that Facebook doesn’t hold any value for unions, but its important that we are aware of its limitations.
This all a bit of preamble to welcoming the development of unionbook– a social networking site for trade unionists – which I’d encourage readers of this blog to sign up to. Eric explains the rationale behind unionbook here.