5 reasons NOT to seal your social media borders

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2010/03/31 · 24 comments 15,446 views

in c corporate blogging

What do Foster’sNestlé, 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.

Google and China censorship - re-routing searches via Hong Kong - how it works

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 sharin

      g (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. One thing is certain, however; if the company is very active on Facebook, it is counter-productive to block employee access to it.

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.

For instance, regulation regarding privacy, data protection, product liability and intellectual property rights may set the stage for what can and what cannot be permitted on work computers.

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.

For instance, the company can prevent workers from accessing these websites using company technology and services, but what they do during a break must be left to them. Using private mobile phones to surf or send out status tweets is the employee’s decision.

Image - Connect with Urs E. Gattiker on TwitterThe 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.

Employees already use their mobile phones to send text messages to clients if they are delayed on the way to a meeting. No smart employer would object to an employee using the technology to inform the client. These days, it might just happen via a direct message using Twitter and an iPhone. As long as it helps the client, it should be okay, no?

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. Even participating in wikis run by an association or professional society (e.g., IEEE, ACM, APA) may help foster learning and staying up-to-date with the latest developments within a profession or industry.

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.

If you know about such work, please provide this information as a comment below – we love reading up on this.

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. This is difficult to achieve considering cultural factors. Nevertheless, seeing Nestlé make such a blunder of this does raise the question of whether its marketing department needs a serious shake-up to wake up.

Image - Connect with Urs E. Gattiker on TwitterTake-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).
YouTube Preview Image

Bottom line
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).

Image - Connect with SM Monitoring group on XingWhen 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.)

This is your chance to contribute your expertise and experiences. Please share; we love dialoguing in the comments. What would you advise Greenpeace, Nestlé or Foster’s to do next time this happens?

You can get updates for this blog on Twitter by following @ComMetrics, get a free subscription by RSS, or get new posts via email:

Article source: ComMetrics – 5 reasons NOT to seal your social media borders

ComMetrics University – coffee break webinars
Image - graphic - tweet - @IFB_Loewenmut - I recommend this RT @ComMetrics: #Webinar - Drop useless #socialmedia #metrics #roi http://cli.gs/2m896q #webanalytics #SMmonitoring #xingWebinars are held every Wednesday at 8:45 AM CET for no more than 20 minutes – the time you spend on a coffee break. In order to make each webinar as interactive as possible, we will limit attendance to about 15 people, so please register yourself NOW, since space is limited and filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Our inaugural webinar addressing issues pertaining to this blog post and others was held this morning.

Register for future webinars here:
Image - graphic - tweet - @IFB_Loewenmut - Urs E. Gattiker @ComMetrics bietet wöchentliche Kurz-Webinare zu #SocialMedia Themen an http://ow.ly/1t0FE Lohnt sich!2010-04-07 ComMetrics University – coffee break webinar: Drop the useless social media metrics

Or just leave a comment below and we will make sure that you get a personal invitation with the particulars for next week’s webinar, including presentation slides that include links to further resources and freebies.

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  • http://twitter.com/SocialCRMChick Erica McClenny

    The right tools can solve this problem.

    Urs, our company, Expion saw this issue of time management coming months ago and built our Social CRM software to be web based for enterprises or assigned employee users to communicate without ever touching Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other channels.

    This solves the need to leave the “time suck” access open. It also blocks any personal profile conversations. Users can aggregate, respond, post, create Facebook events etc…all from one location.

    The need for participation policies, employee procedures and enterprise governance is huge in an ever changing environment. Corporations are scared and taking the lock down to the extreme in some cases. Your questions make sense: where do you spend time and effort?

    What tools give you the biggest return on the time and investment?

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  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    EricannThanks for this comment. Yes I agree with you, tools can help in making us more efficient (e.g., doing things faster).nNevertheless, they do not necessarily make us effective (doing the right things in the first place).nnRegarding your tool, as we both know it is brand new and I have not had the opportunity to take it for a test-drive yet. Hence, I simply have to believe what you are saying. It surely will be a great success if it supports organizations and workers in finding better ways for spending their time time more effectively whilst working with social media.nnNevertheless, for me technology is value-free as David S. Landes (The unbound Prometheus) once pointed out. It is the way we use it that determines its value to us as individuals and society at large (e.g., use technology to accomplish greater profitability, being closer to friends, etc.).nnFor me, controls solve part of the problem. nnFor instance, Tue night (2010-03-30) there was a sharp increase in the failure of search in China using Google. It had mis-configured the system so that all search results included the three letters rfa, resembling the Radio Free Asia site which is banned by the Chinese Government.nnHence, Beijing did not step up its retaliation against Google in the dispute over censorship. Instead a technical change by Google was to blame for the surge in searches being blocked.nnAgain, this example shows that it is human beings that configure the systems, use them AND circumvent the controls in myriad ways to get what they want. If your technology prevents me from going to my Facebook page, what prevents me from using my private smartphone? This suggests that without education, training and mutual understanding, controls will not necessarily help us achieve the ultimate objectives we must to improve your organization’s bottom line.nnI prefer to trust my workers to a certain degree to do things right. Nevertheless, some training and support is needed to help them get there.nnErica, thanks for sharing and I look forward to be able to test your great product.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    EricannThanks for this comment. Yes I agree with you, tools can help in making us more efficient (e.g., doing things faster).nNevertheless, they do not necessarily make us effective (doing the right things in the first place).nnRegarding your tool, as we both know it is brand new and I have not had the opportunity to take it for a test-drive yet. Hence, I simply have to believe what you are saying. It surely will be a great success if it supports organizations and workers in finding better ways for spending their time time more effectively whilst working with social media.nnNevertheless, for me technology is value-free as David S. Landes (The unbound Prometheus) once pointed out. It is the way we use it that determines its value to us as individuals and society at large (e.g., use technology to accomplish greater profitability, being closer to friends, etc.).nnFor me, controls solve part of the problem. nnFor instance, Tue night (2010-03-30) there was a sharp increase in the failure of search in China using Google. It had mis-configured the system so that all search results included the three letters rfa, resembling the Radio Free Asia site which is banned by the Chinese Government.nnHence, Beijing did not step up its retaliation against Google in the dispute over censorship. Instead a technical change by Google was to blame for the surge in searches being blocked.nnAgain, this example shows that it is human beings that configure the systems, use them AND circumvent the controls in myriad ways to get what they want. If your technology prevents me from going to my Facebook page, what prevents me from using my private smartphone? This suggests that without education, training and mutual understanding, controls will not necessarily help us achieve the ultimate objectives we must to improve your organization’s bottom line.nnI prefer to trust my workers to a certain degree to do things right. Nevertheless, some training and support is needed to help them get there.nnErica, thanks for sharing and I look forward to be able to test your great product.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    EricannThanks for this comment. Yes I agree with you, tools can help in making us more efficient (e.g., doing things faster).nNevertheless, they do not necessarily make us effective (doing the right things in the first place).nnRegarding your tool, as we both know it is brand new and I have not had the opportunity to take it for a test-drive yet. Hence, I simply have to believe what you are saying. It surely will be a great success if it supports organizations and workers in finding better ways for spending their time time more effectively whilst working with social media.nnNevertheless, for me technology is value-free as David S. Landes (The unbound Prometheus) once pointed out. It is the way we use it that determines its value to us as individuals and society at large (e.g., use technology to accomplish greater profitability, being closer to friends, etc.).nnFor me, controls solve part of the problem. nnFor instance, Tue night (2010-03-30) there was a sharp increase in the failure of search in China using Google. It had mis-configured the system so that all search results included the three letters rfa, resembling the Radio Free Asia site which is banned by the Chinese Government.nnHence, Beijing did not step up its retaliation against Google in the dispute over censorship. Instead a technical change by Google was to blame for the surge in searches being blocked.nnAgain, this example shows that it is human beings that configure the systems, use them AND circumvent the controls in myriad ways to get what they want. If your technology prevents me from going to my Facebook page, what prevents me from using my private smartphone? This suggests that without education, training and mutual understanding, controls will not necessarily help us achieve the ultimate objectives we must to improve your organization’s bottom line.nnI prefer to trust my workers to a certain degree to do things right. Nevertheless, some training and support is needed to help them get there.nnErica, thanks for sharing and I look forward to be able to test your great product.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Erica

    Thanks for this comment. Yes I agree with you, tools can help in making us more efficient (e.g., doing things faster).
    Nevertheless, they do not necessarily make us effective (doing the right things in the first place).

    Regarding your tool, as we both know it is brand new and I have not had the opportunity to take it for a test-drive yet. Hence, I simply have to believe what you are saying. It surely will be a great success if it supports organizations and workers in finding better ways for spending their time time more effectively whilst working with social media.

    Nevertheless, for me technology is value-free as David S. Landes (The unbound Prometheus) once pointed out. It is the way we use it that determines its value to us as individuals and society at large (e.g., use technology to accomplish greater profitability, being closer to friends, etc.).

    For me, controls solve part of the problem.

    For instance, Tue night (2010-03-30) there was a sharp increase in the failure of search in China using Google. It had mis-configured the system so that all search results included the three letters rfa, resembling the Radio Free Asia site which is banned by the Chinese Government.

    Hence, Beijing did not step up its retaliation against Google in the dispute over censorship. Instead a technical change by Google was to blame for the surge in searches being blocked.

    Again, this example shows that it is human beings that configure the systems, use them AND circumvent the controls in myriad ways to get what they want. If your technology prevents me from going to my Facebook page, what prevents me from using my private smartphone? This suggests that without education, training and mutual understanding, controls will not necessarily help us achieve the ultimate objectives we must to improve your organization's bottom line.

    I prefer to trust my workers to a certain degree to do things right. Nevertheless, some training and support is needed to help them get there.

    Erica, thanks for sharing and I look forward to be able to test your great product.

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