When it comes to social media use in business, I see two schools of thought – those who love it and want it to pervade everything they do and those who are wary it will create more work, or worse, be a negative for the organization. This was illustrated nicely by a couple of recent posts that took the opposing viewpoints (though not 100% similar to the two I just outlined).
First up was a post from Jay Baer called “Speak No Evil – Why Trust Isn’t a 4 Letter Word in Social Media.” In it Jay basically says that social media shouldn’t be relegated to a few people in marketing, but rather should be opened up to all employees. He says “if your employees aren’t “good” at social media, you don’t have a social media problem, you having a hiring problem.”
Mark Schaefer countered with his post “Stop shoving social media down my throat.” His main point is that not every employee is cut out for social media, yet that doesn’t mean there’s a hiring problem. You don’t ask everyone to do accounting, so why should everyone be expected to be social media literate.
These contrasting views highlight an interesting issue a lot of companies are facing. As social media becomes more and more a part of our everyday lives, how do you enable your employees to embrace it without jeopardizing the brand? And where is the line drawn between personal and corporate presence?
I tend to lean more towards the point of view presented by Mark versus that of Jay. I don’t believe that the corporate social media presence should be owned by all. For some companies, that may work, but for most large organizations, that’d be too high a risk. Social media is a marketing tool. When all is said and done, most companies are using it as a way to increase leads/sales. If you allow your presence to be governed by many, you run the risk of conflicting messages, message dilution, or worse. The same way you don’t let individual departments issue press releases, why let them control social media channels? And further, why expect that this should be an innate skill needed if their day job doesn’t require it (i.e. who cares if a scientist doesn’t Twitter – will he cure cancer?)?
That all said, I do feel there’s a nuance that is missed in both posts, which is the personal presence. While not everyone will manage the corporate Twitter handle, it’s very likely that many employees have personal Twitter handles or Facebook pages or blogs, etc. While I don’t think the company should regulate these with a heavy hand, there should be an expectation through internal policies about that the conduct of employees on personal social properties directly reflects and impacts the corporate reputation.
Do all employees need to be proactively engaging with company stakeholders through social media? No. Do all employees represent the company when they engage in social media regardless of where and the context of conversation? Absolutely.