How Your Social Media Policy Could Kill Your Culture

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I love Social Media. But really, it’s not that important.

Not compared to some things.

I’ve begun to see a few posts suggesting that companies need to take more control over their employees social media output. That word – ‘control’ – has actually been used on more than one occasion.

An unwelcome trend.

It’s obvious to see why this is happening. Last year saw some big organisations fall victim to social media “blunders”. Although personally I prefer thinking of them as “lessons”.

And we’ve just had one of the most high profile UK cases to date – the redundancy tweets at HMV. That event has been blogged to death and I don’t want to add to it. I’d rather concentrate on what I think are some of the incorrect conclusions that have been drawn from it , and cases like it.

If you somehow missed the incident you can have a read about it here , or you can read my 140 character summary below:

"Company goes bust. Calls 60 staff into sacking. Staff tweet live from corporate account about what a bunch of idiots the managers are."
“Company goes bust. Calls 60 staff into sacking. Staff tweet live from corporate account about what a bunch of idiots the managers are.”

In the weeks that followed there have been a number of suggestions , often from Social Media and PR experts, about how we could avoid these kind of incidents in the future.

Some of the suggestions have included:

  • Only permitting “Junior” employees permission to draft social media messages, and making them go through an approval queuefor senior management to sign off before they are published
  • Banning all your employees from using social media at work and asking them to hand over their phones as they enter the premises

I couldn’t agree more.

Most employees are borderline psychotic. Little time-bombs preparing to explode at the slightest incident. In fact, rarely a day goes by in my team without one of them tweeting “@paulbromford – what a tosser” – just because I don’t make many cups of tea.

Seriously – is this what we have come to?

I think we are learning the wrong things. Here’s what I think we can take away from such incidents:

1 – Treat your employees well at all times.

2 – Don’t employ managers who are rubbish.

3 – Educate employees about the magnificent positives of social media but also the negatives. Support them and learn together.

This has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with leadership and culture.

Culture is what allows my own organisation to have such an open approach to social media. Everyone has access. Anyone can tweet or blog. My Opportunity4Employment Assistant – Chai Podins was set up with social media accounts on his first day at work. He would qualify as a “junior” if we used such archaic terms. Which we don’t.

A risky approach to social media? Maybe. But all use of social media has risks.

It does make sense that corporate accounts are protected. There should be plans in place for when errors are made or there is a hacking. Both of which are far more likely to happen than a colleague going into meltdown.

But if you write a Social Media Policy and it effectively says:

  • There is a hierarchy for message approval.
  • That you start with a belief that colleagues are going to “go rogue”
  • That you don’t trust the people you employ with 140 characters of text.

It will kill your culture. And that will take you years and years to rebuild.

So if you or your company are risk averse , and you don’t trust your people with social media, my advice is simple:

Don’t use it. It’s not worth it.

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