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5 reasons NOT to seal your social media borders
A lot of companies refuse to allow their employees to access any social media at work, ever. We look at why this is wrong in a world where SM is becoming king.
What do Foster's, Nestlé, UBS, the City of Zurich and Starbucks have in common? They are all trying to figure out whether staff spending two to three hours on Facebook, Hi5, Xing, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. each day increases customer engagement or just wastes time.
Some are unsure and therefore blocking or controlling access to certain social media destinations:
City of Zurich blocks access to social networks (as have Credit Suisse & UBS). Moreover, Google's showdown with China's censors highlights increasing official efforts to control the web, ranging from selective to substantial censorship.
We outline five critical questions that must be answered before blocking employee access to social networks.
1. Which SM channels does your company use?
Before blocking web access to certain destinations, you must distinguish between different types.
For instance, there are four different types of social media channels or networks, including those that:
a) foster collaborative work and knowledge sharing (e.g., corporate blogs and/or wikis), b) facilitate professional networking and information exchange (e.g., LinkedIn, Xing or Viadeo), c) provide methods of quick information distribution (e.g., Twitter, Naijapulse, Identi.ca, instant messaging), and
d) help us stay connected with friends and family (e.g., Facebook, Hi5). Some companies may encourage internal methods and versions of the above, but frown on employees contributing to them from outside the corporate network.
Hence, the challenge is to make the right choices when it comes to deciding which of the four channels employees are given access to.
2. Could legislation make things more difficult?
Besides which channel you use and which you allow your workers to access during business hours, you must also consider the local legal landscape.
Moreover, most courts follow the principle that if something has been quietly tolerated over a period of time, it is permitted. In fact, rules that are not consistently and fairly enforced cannot be used to justify later sanctions against staff.
So we need to carefully assess what it means if workers use company tools, services and work-time to access social media destinations like Viral Networkers. What are the legal implications and/or possible consequences? How can the risk of damage be minimized without cutting employees off altogether (i.e. the middle road)?
3. Could resistance be futile?
Besides having to carefully decide which networks employees may use for work and assessing how local legislation affects the equation, one must decide whether corporate resistance is a futile exercise.
The resistance versus acceptance issue may be decided for the company by its customers. For instance, if clients reach out to workers using instant messaging or writing a comment on an employee's Facebook wall, resisting this type of connection seems outright stupid.
4. Could greater collaboration increase know-how?
Maybe we agree that resisting the increasing pervasiveness of social media in people's lives is futile.
Of course, the Internet can facilitate collaborative work efforts. For instance, with the help of internal networks, companies have used blogs and wikis to better share information and know-how among staff in different divisions and countries.
But we disagree that the Internet has enhanced and improved reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge for the average Joe, as claimed by experts participating in a recent Pew study.
5. What factors may influence social media usage?
Depending on market regulation and wealth, the majority of employees under the age of 40 may have a smartphone with the option of mobile Internet access (e.g., Finland, Sweden & Denmark).
Nevertheless, status updates on Twitter or Facebook from my tax assessor or neighborhood cop will not foster greater citizen engagement, will they? Nor does the crane operator or brick layer on a construction site need to provide status updates on Twitter via their iPhone. In fact, this might distract from the work and become a serious safety issue.
However, worst is when a company fails to grasp the culture of social media in a global virtual environment. A perfect example is the viral attack launched by Greenpeace against one of Nestlé's brands:
Stop Nestlé from buying palm oil from companies that destroy the rainforest - ComMetrics to Nestlé's rescue Response needs to be such that a global audience gets the message and understands why the situation may not be as black and white as Greenpeace claims.
Take-aways - a control list that works
Here is how social media access can be managed to benefit the company, workers AND customers: 1. using social media to engage clients suggests that employees must be encouraged to reach out to clients via these channels (no, Nestlé's Kit Kat flop against Greenpeace on Facebook does not qualify the food giant), 2. leveraging usage of these information channels at work is critical to the bottom line (e.g., how to do better while using no more than 20 minutes a day), and finally, 3. educating staff about using social media (e.g., hi5, Naijapulse or Second Life) to limit the chance of wrongful or unethical use thereof (this social media resource page helps). More resources about social media 101 and your corporate brand:
ComMetrics - Yes Virginia, social media client-engagement IS a myth! Bernhard Warner - Will Nestlé Ever Reclaim its Facebook Page from Protesters? Pew Internet and American Life Project - The future of the internet IV (research report - summary - download full report)
Advertising Age - Five reasons companies should not block access to social networks
ComMetrics - Social media policy - resource page for those that work like magic M. Bamieh - Carlton Draught Beer - Learn Social Media by Example - don't fail to see an opportunity when you have one. Foster's did, deciding not to air TV ads like the one below. Putting them on a special website was smart, but pulling them off the web when they started going big-time viral was plain stupid (see also 5 steps beyond viral marketing).
Instead of pervasive limitation or outright blockage of access, following the above hones in on using selective censorship, allowing employees the opportunity to use social media smartly for job-related purposes.
Whatever you do, benchmark your social media efforts - you can register for FREE with My.ComMetrics.com to benchmark smartly and improve performance.
Companies will be held accountable by social activists, traditional media and bloggers. As the Nestlé case illustrates, most viral marketing is at the expense of your brand (see also US Airways and the Hudson River landing).
When this happens, it helps to have vigilant workers that know the facts and share them with their own social networks. Just laying down to take a beating is never a smart thing to do.
What is your take? Will Nestlé Waters North America learn from the Kit Kat social media debacle and use social media smarter? (See 2010-03-29 - spearheaded by Food and Water Watch - consumer groups launched campaign against Nestlé Waters North America's proposed facility in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.)
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Article source: ComMetrics – 5 reasons NOT to seal your social media borders
Learn more about the author, Urs E Gattiker.
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