A lot of discussions take place day in and day out over the use of social media in the workplace. “Is it productive?”, “Why do we need it?”, “Where’s the return?” and “Should we allow it?” have been uttered more times in board rooms and meetings than any of the bullshit bingo we all snicker at when folks who don’t understand what they’re talking about use to fill space. There are some great resources online to see what the big companies are doing regarding social media, but given the prevalence of sites like Facebook and Twitter at some point it becomes an issue of personal use versus company use, to which I can only say one thing…
Your company is either a social company or it’s not.
What, would you prefer the “You can’t be half-pregnant” analogy?
There are industries that flat out can not be 100% social. Financial services, for example. Health care is another. Both have heavy restrictions placed on them by the government as to what they can say, do, engage in, claim and advertise. Health care can’t disclose personal patient information per HIPPA. DDMAC is watching the PhRMA industry to see how far they push it. The SEC, while being on Twitter since 2008 and recently announcing that they’re hiring 500 people and going deep into social media, published guidelines for companies to comply with fair disclosure. It doesn’t mean that they’re not out there, like my friend <a href="Dan from the Detroit Medical Center, but the bottom line is that, for some companies, the social media freedoms that individuals face will never happen on a corporate level.
That being said, there are plenty of industries and companies (including agencies) that should be using social media but aren’t. In a previous post mentioned that if your agency spends most of their time making YouTube videos that they’re probably not working, but I will at least give them credit for being “out there”; Carefully choreographed and lame, but they’re out there. Some companies are afraid to let their employees speak and have arcane social media policies that should be dubbed anti-social media. “Don’t tell anyone you represent the company because you haven’t been dubbed an ‘official’ ambassador.” “Don’t participate in communities, Don’t comment on blogs, and definitely do not engage without client approving the message first.” they typically say. It ultimately creates a corporate culture where the employee’s opinions aren’t valued, or stifles their ability to truly utilize the medium because of the threat of HR calling you because you violated a policy that is flat out anti-social.
This to me defeats the purpose of being involved in social media at all. In order for brands and agencies to have credibility they have to be a part of the communities they are constantly pitching. I’m really proud that the other EVPs, the President of my new agency and other senior leaders are engaged in social media. We practice what we preach at the senior most levels, because if we don’t do it how can we possibly speak credibly to clients about it? Furthermore, how can we claim to have relationships ow know the pulse of a community we don’t belong to? Taking it a step further, how can we advocate to our clients to “let go” and trust their employees to carry the message forward if we’re not doing it ourselves? Not doing so sets precedence for junior staff that it’s OK not to participate in social media.
Finally, the value of having employees engaged in social media, if nothing else, is to identify new business opportunities, product development ideation, or protect your company’s reputation from a crisis.
Don’t believe me that being part of the community helps? I’ll use this post as a case. After it goes live I’ll ask a few friends to retweet it and we’ll see what happens. I’m guessing they all will, because they know Dave Binkowski the blogger, Dave Binkowski the family man, Dave Binkowski the employer and Dave Binkowski the marketer who’ll give their community and blog the time of day when most PR and ad folks won’t. And I don’t have to ask for permission or violate our company’s social media policy to do it. I’m not saying how I do it is right, but it sure beats having a policy that says you have to remain behind the curtain unless we tell you it’s OK to show your face. It begs to question why such a policy would exist, other than to have a complete distrust for the people you hire and that even with all of the social media and “letting go” hype you haven’t really changed – you’re still about controlling the message. Now that’s anti social.