When unions take the plunge and use social networking websites they shouldn’t limit themselves to Facebook. With most large websites taking on aspects of social networking, there are many sites where unions could reach out to members, potential members (including young people) and the general public.
For example, let’s say a union wants to raise public awareness about an industrial dispute. A good example would be a recent long and bitter dispute involving Nestle workers in Russia, employed at the country’s KitKat factory. KitKat is a well-known brand name, opening up many possibilities for the union (and its overseas allies) to campaign online. An obvious choice would be to use Google adwords — but that is an increasingly costly option.
Another option is to make much greater use of the Wikipedia. For example, a Google search for “KitKat” turns up two results from Nestle’s own websites, a BBC article — and the Wikipedia. As it’s unlikely we could persuade Nestle to include a trade union campaign on its web pages, editing the Wikipedia page to include information on the dispute would be a great idea.
A year ago, I don’t remember why, I found myself on the Amazon.co.uk page selling Microsoft Excel. I posted a one-sentence review which read “Why would anyone pay over £170 for a piece of software which does nothing more than OpenOffice.org does — and OpenOffice.org is completely free of charge?” And then I forgot about it.
But recently I found that someone had left a comment on my review. It read “This is so true – I dowloaded OpenOffice on reading this and it is very good, converts all your old word or .xls files and is easy to use with the same functionality of Office. Plus I am quids in as was about to spend £180 on Excel. Major mistake if I had done that!”
Reading this made me think that if we can use Amazon to promote free software, we can probably use it to promote trade unions and workers’ rights. In fact, Amazon has for many years included social networking features such as user profiles, reviews, commenting, rating and voting systems.
Unions need to carry the fight to get our message across not only in the well-known, obvious places like Facebook (some of which are fads and will eventually disappear) but also in the arenas where millions of Internet users spend their time — including such sites as Amazon and the Wikipedia.