I saw two blog posts this past week that reminded me that there are a lot of people out there who don’t “get” social media and its role in business.
One was a guest post on Lindsay Olson’s PR career blog about “Is Tweeting Hazardous to Your Job?” In this guest post, PR columnist Alison Kenney offered up some of the biggest social media faux pas that so-called PR professionals have been guilty of lately. Leaving the recent Facebook/Burson-Marsteller debacle aside, there are a number of other communications professionals who seem to have temporarily forgotten the rules of social media engagement. This from her blog post:
- In March, Scott Bartosiewicz, an employee at New Media Strategies, the social media agency of record for Chrysler, tweeted a derogatory message about Detroit drivers from the official Chrysler Twitter account, costing his agency its relationship with Chrysler
- This month, The Redner Group, a small PR firm led by Jim Redner, was fired by client 2K games after a frustrated Redner tweeted a threat to withhold review copies of the popular game Duke Nukem Forever if reviewers don’t offer more positive reviews.
- Two years ago, while on his way to give a presentation about digital media to FedEx communications employees, Ketchum VP James Andrews tweeted a derogatory comment about travel to Memphis (where FedEx is headquartered). The tweet rankled FedEx employees who called Andrews out and extracted an apology from him. He kept his job.
In all of these cases, employees are exhibiting poor judgment and making poor choices in expressing themselves. Social media is exposing their mistakes to the public and to their employer.
What people tend to forget in the heat of the moment, or because the social media tools have become so familiar, is that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and their like are, well, social! It’s not a private conversation with 500 of your closest friends. Rather, when you post, you are putting out commentary for all the world to read, and react to. Which means if you mix social media and work, you have to be extra careful.
A lot of companies control or block social media access, and they are certainly monitoring what you do online. (I will occasionally work at a client site and the IT manager frequently sends me reports with a breakdown of my online activity complaining that I am consuming too much bandwidth, so I know he is watching.) I have a client that specializes in providing controls and monitoring for social media access. Like it or not, your social media activities are being watched. And even if they aren’t watching right now, you need to make sure you leave a clean online trail that isn’t going to create problems when a client or prospective employer stumbles on it later.
While most of the insights Tom Biro offers seem to be common sense, they are worth repeating here as a reminder:
- Even if you are blocking employees access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, you know they are using their smartphones to get around that. While productivity may not be an issues, data leakage and protecting your company’s brand are a concern. Watch what your staff are doing online.
- Set a good example. Some of the examples cited above are errors made by senior staffers. They should know better, and they should prove that to their fellow professionals with every post.
- Remember that social media is about dialogue, not monologue. Don’t rant, but comment. Add to the conversation rather than trying to command the floor.
- You want to use social media to increase your brand awareness. Make sure you are being seen and commenting in the right places to advance your brand visibility.
- Establish social media guidelines. This is your first line of defense as an employer, and your first reference for common sense as an employee. If you spell out what is and is not appropriate about your behavior online you won’t leave room for doubt.
- Be transparent about your identity. Be sure you are clear about who you are and your stake in the conversation, i.e. whether you are speaking on behalf of a client.
- Think before you post. Think about the impact of what you have to say, and how it could affect coworkers, clients, associates,and others.
- Don’t assume you are anonymous. If you are using a corporate Wi-Fi connection of a company network, someone is watching the traffic so never assume you can’ t be seen. Big Brother is everywhere.
Effective use of social media is about positive interaction and sharing stuff that is interesting and that contributes to the dialogue. If you use common sense and remember that social media is a very public forum, so don’t say or do anything you may regret later.