Controversial Topics and Social Media

Often there is reticence to engaging in social media at an organizational level, out of concern for controversy, or losing control of "the message". I came across this site which engages a very controversial topic - the tar sands - using open (but moderated) discussion forums. I got to thinking: if they have found a way to make social media work for them, couldn't almost any organization?

The tar sands are a controversial subject if there was one: some see it as an important source of jobs and economic development, others see it as a key element in North American energy security, while still others see it as a massive environmental problem. Even the name, "tar sands" is up for debate (on the site they are referred to as "oil sands"). (I refer to them as tar sands because it's the more common term, and it's what I grew up with).

And yet ... the discussion forum engages in a wide variety of subjects - from water pollution, to shutting down the tar sands, to housing shortages. The organization learns from these conversations, and benefits from listening to a wide variety of perspectives. They claim to be developing new approaches and policies about environmental stewardship to reflect the insights they receive through audience engagement.

I urge you to have a look - there is something to learn here about listening, open dialogue, and about managing outcomes.

Canada's Oil Sands

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