Social Media Muppets and the Importance of Education

Today's #CommentTuesdays post is inspired by this tweet from Rebecca Ford (via @hoosttweets and @erikau):

"Twitter finds out the Titanic was a real event -"

The following image was attached:

Now, clearly, the temptation is to condemn all of those people as idiots. And the fact that some of them have Justin Bieber-themed usernames backs up that theory (only joking, Beliebers!).

But seriously, there are a few questions that need to be asked, and the main one is this - why should they know?

Lessons to Learn

The Titanic sank a century ago and, while it was tragic and disastrous and all the rest, actually teaching people about it is little more than an indulgence - what do we learn? Nothing about ship-building, for a start. Not a great deal about the class system of that time that can still be applied today.

Basically, we learn one thing from the story of the Titanic - don't launch a ship without enough lifeboats. Does that alone make it an essential component of the curriculum?

I'd argue that there have been many more relevant and significant events in recent years that are much more deserving of a place in history lessons at all levels, and in several different countries' schools.

Would you rather your child learned about the Titanic, or about the events of September 11th 2001? Seriously, if you had to choose, which do you think matters the most to them right now? There's only so much lesson time, and a whole past's worth of history to be learned - and the past is growing minute by minute, day by day.

Blame the Parents

So if we agree that schools shouldn't bear the brunt for kids not knowing about the Titanic, who do we blame? It's not the kids' fault - you don't know something till you learn it, right?

Does that leave parents in the firing line (again)? When exactly did they list 'the sinking of the Titanic' alongside 'how to shave' and 'where babies come from' as Big Talks for a parent to have with their kid? When do you drop that topic on them? Between 'don't run off with strangers' and 'don't go swimming in old quarries'?

Again, it's easy to condemn kids for not knowing something - but when exactly should they have learned it??

Social Subtlety

Look again at the usernames, profile pics and tweets in the image. How old are the people behind those accounts? Some of them haven't seen the movie 'yet' - suggesting it's on their list, but that they weren't old enough to see it when it first came out.

Social networking puts all kinds of people within arm's reach, from the old and wise to the young and foolish - and it gives us an entirely new way to discover the gaps in some people's (and groups of people's) knowledge. Rather than condemn them for that, we should support them and, if they're lacking some significant understanding, try to help them out.

In the case of the Titanic, I'm not sure it's actually that important for people who aren't studying history to know the story. We can't go on mourning every tragedy indefinitely, and it's been 100 years. Perhaps it's time to move on...

Educating Your Audience

What conclusions can we draw from the above that can be applied elsewhere? Well, I'd suggest the following.

If you're using social networking as an ecommerce tool, get to know your audience. It's important for your account to appear natural - and that means genuinely engaging with your customers and critics alike.

Next, look out for any of these knowledge gaps that relate to your industry - if you're a loan provider, you might notice that people don't understand the difference between a secured loan and a mortgage, for instance. These are valuable areas for you to offer support - perhaps an explanatory blog post that you link to from your Twitter account - and show that you're keen to help your customers understand your products.

You build trust and rapport, and you also know that your blog posts are filling gaps in the existing knowledge base - which might help them to perform better in the search results for relevant phrases.