Dickens’ Christmas Carol, first published in December 1843, is credited with reinventing Christmas as a time of festivity and merriment, of goodwill to all men, re-introducing trees, cards and celebrations to a period previously characterised by sombreness and sobriety.
A Christmas Carol has since become a touchstone of how we should behave, particularly towards our fellow man, over the festive period.
Sadly, a coda for how we should conduct ourselves on social media is still widely lacking in a year where the newspapers have reported a wide range of social misdemeanors from the hilariously incompetent – the tweets of footballers and cricketers for example, to the incredibly sad – the worst cases of teenage bullying.
So here’s my Dickens inspired five point plan on how we can all change our ways and be less Scrooge-like on Social Media in 2014.
1. Be Sociable
Scrooge turns down his nephew Fred’s invitation to dinner, preferring to spend Christmas Eve alone. He just doesn’t see the point.
The social media equivalent is to decline to follow, like or engage with anyone at all on social media channels.
Scrooge may have riches, family, a house and people who want to be his friend, but if he refuses to engage with them, well the Ghost of Christmas future shows how that turns out for him.
2. Be Positive
Scrooge rudely turns away two gentleman collecting money to feed the poor and variously calls Christmas ‘humbug’ and ‘a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 25th December’.
In modern terms, Scrooge is a troll – a disagreeable old buzzard who treats other people’s enthusiasm for Christmas as sport for him to knock down.
Social Media is about adding to the debate, not shooting down other people’s views just because you don’t share them. Apply Thumper’s Law: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
3. Be Generous
The life force of social media is liking and following people because you’re interested in what they have to say and the content they post. So be generous, ‘like’ things on Facebook, re-tweet and re-pin stuff, share and follow, even if there is no obvious monetary value to doing so.
Unlike Scrooge and his business partner Marley - If these guys were on social media (I doubt they’d bother) they’d never share anything and follow no one, occasionally broadcasting the odd self-congratulatory message perhaps.
4. Take Advice
It takes three ghosts to persuade stubborn old Ebenezer that his philosophy is wrong. If you’re a business or brand, you need experienced (but hopefully not dead) advisers to create good social media strategies.
You also need good original content and community management run by people who know what they’re doing. Left to his own devices, Scrooge has clearly not done a good job managing his own publicity. Notorious rather than famous, he’s become, in fact, a cautionary tale.
Social media channels may be free but good content and manpower is not. When Scrooge finally sees the error of his ways, Christmas moves from an avoidable cost to an important investment and he invests in it.
He sends a prize turkey to his assistant Bob Cratchit and gives him a pay rise. He spends the day with his nephew’s family and treats everyone with kindness, generosity and compassion, which is then returned.
The future for the reformed, sociable Scrooge looks very positive.
We can all be a bit Scrooge-like from time to time on social media, but we also have the same chance to mend our ways.
Merry Christmas one and all!