Reaction to @baskers: A Clear Call To Action For Social Media Policy
This weekend has seen a furore develop in the mainstream press over the blog and Twitter account run by Department of Transport civil servant Sarah Baskerville, or @baskers, as we now know her.
The likelihood is that the extensive and in many cases inflammatory media coverage will make many businesses uncomfortable about social media in general, and once again raise the question of where the line is to be drawn when it comes to employee tweeting.
I have my own opinions about the whole saga but what I’m more interested in here is what businesses can take away from this – because I think this represents an important call to action to get social media policy right.
Optix Solutions’ 2010 Social Media Survey found that less than 30% of respondent companies had a company social media policy in place. Yet one of the key barriers for business (especially in more conservative, and especially regulated, B2B environments) when it comes to embracing social media is a sense of fear-driven paralysis. Not least because we realise that you cannot control what an employee has to say.
So, in light of this story in particular, my, message to business is this:
First of all, this is not new. Facebook has provided a similar platform for years now – Twitter simply allows greater amplification – but does not guarantee it. Before that it was IM, email and the good old water cooler where people chatted about work and vented their frustrations. They still do. Calm down. Technology is not the problem.
Second, you can’t control what an employee has to say online or offline, but you can hypothesise, mitigate and set parameters and guidelines in line with what you genuinely need to protect or manage. You can draw the line, but you need to be realistic about where.
I’m not going to go into the how and why of social media policy here (post forthcoming) but I’d like to outline a few thought processes to which businesses should devote some time in the first instance:
Know the terrain
Do you even know how many of your employees are using social media? Which platforms? When? Are they using them for purely personal networking, or is there a professional bent to what they are doing online (for example, are they tweeting relevant content, talking to others in similar or related industries, taking part in forum debates)?
You need to understand this first and foremost. But tread carefully – an open and honest dialogue with a pre-stated objective will be more fruitful than sudden or defensive questioning.
Know the dangers
What are the dangers of your employees tweeting about work? Do you trust your workforce to maintain professionalism on an open and fairly personal platform? Are they incentivised or encouraged to do that? What might happen? Can you hypothesise about any potential flashpoints and consider what the ultimate effects may be? It’s worth considering those scenarios on a scale of 1 to 10, so that you know where to focus your efforts when it comes to encouraging responsible use of social media.
Know your bottom line
In any business, certain topics will be off limits for the outside world – whether it’s clients, methodologies, projects, internal news. You need to know what your bottom line is when it comes to acceptable and unacceptable – and be able to demonstrate and articulate a solid business reason for that. Some content might be sub-optimal – no-one can mitigate for every single scenario – but know what to sweat and what not to sweat. You have to cede control to some degree.
Know the best-case scenario
Again, here’s where hypothesis comes into play very userfully. If it’s a given – as it probably is – that some of your workforce are using social media platforms outside of official corporate accounts, think about what the best-case scenario here could be. If your employees where actively encouraged and empowered to use Twitter, for example, to engage with the outside world in their professional capacity, what might the upside be? A broader view of your industry, new contacts, a heightened online profile for your organisation and increased awareness are just a few of the benefits, and are easily realised. Not only that, but empowerment through demonstrating trust is powerful when it comes to team motivation and engagement.
This is worth some thought. After all, if knowledge is power, applied knowledge is power with added understanding, foresight and direction. Once you’ve considered these questions, you’re already a good way towards being able to develop a solid social media policy which does away with some of the ambiguity the Department for Transport have been faced with – and I’d urge you to give that some serious consideration, if you haven’t already.
Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London, providing brilliant integrated communications to businesses. If you’d like to talk to us about how to go about developing your social media policy, get in touch here.
This entry was posted on November 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm and is filed under social media, Social Media Policy with tags social media, social media policy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.