Unfollow Anti-Social Media Policies

It irritates me when I hear Twitter, Facebook et al, blamed for the loss of productivity and foot-in-mouth faux pas by employees. That inevitably leads to the discussion regarding banning the networks from the workplace or the introduction of a lengthy social media policy within the business. Stop blaming the tools – it’s the people using them.

Extra Thick Crust, Hold the Common Sense

As Scott Stratton (@unmarketing) put it at Jobsite’s FreshThinking seminar, “Stop hiring morons”. That may seem a little harsh, but let’s look at an example.

Dominos staff filmed themselves doing disgusting things to food in the kitchen before serving up to customers. They posted it on Youtube and were promptly fired and arrested for their endeavors. That wasn’t Youtube’s fault, it was the morons messing with the pizza.

Every time something like this happens, I just shake my head. Didn’t it occur to them that sharing this publicly meant it wasn’t going to end well for them? It’s common sense. Well, for most of us.

The Unpleasant Aftertaste

So what happens? Businesses panic, and before you know it, access to social sites are restricted or banned from the workplace, and/or stringent social media policies are introduced in an effort to control employee activity (which ironically, is the opposite of being social). It is not enough to learn security from good hackers. It’s our mindset and attitude that cause most worries!

This backfires on multiple levels:

  • Your staff will hate you. That won’t look good on your employee satisfaction report.
  • It won’t stop them. You know those shiny smartphones everyone has now? Makes your restricted access network a little redundant, doesn’t it?
  • You’ll lose their trust. You’re effectively saying they’ll only say something stupid so best shut up and let you do the talking.
  • You’re hurting your business by restricting your employees’ development. Get over the whole ‘it’s just people talking about what they had for breakfast’ nonsense. If you’re hiring the right people, they’re using it to learn from others through article sharing and discussion, they’re monitoring your competitors and the industry, and they’re making connections and forming relationships with potential new customers or employees. And if they mention what they did at the weekend, well, it makes them – and your brand – more human. And when was that such a bad thing?
  • And the biggest blow to your business? You’re oppressing the best source of ambassadors of your brand.  You could have people freely talking about the great stuff you’re doing, but if you’d rather be in control of the message that’s fine. Oh wait, did I mention you can’t control the message? People are saying whatever they want about your brand, whether you like it or not. You could perhaps influence that conversation by participating…oh wait, you can’t, you’ve cut off access to those that care about your brand the most. This social stuff is difficult, isn’t it?

Actually, no it’s not. We just make it that way.

In the following video, Kacper Gradoń talks about the effects of (anti)social media and smartphones at a TEDxFulbrightWarsaw meeting. He points out how especially smartphones and social media impact our society. New technology influences us on all levels, personal, friends, and family, and society in general.

The Ultimate Topping

Stop hiring morons and give your employees access to social media and forget about the rigid social media policy. Policies tend to be lengthy and focused on what you should not do. Instead, educate your staff. Also, when choosing an agency partner, be sure to pick the right one!

Show them how to use the tools – for their own benefit, not just for the business (it’ll pay off in the long run, as socially aware, responsible staff who enjoy their work, will just love talking about the great things you do).

Most importantly, emphasize common sense when tweeting, posting, updating.  Take a leaf out of the Royal Navy’s book – their social media ‘policy’ consists of just two questions:

  1. What would your mother think?
  2. What would your commanding officer think?

If that doesn’t stop you from posting photos from the Stag/Hen weekend nothing will.

If you feel you need a little more reassurance than those two questions bring, consider writing a brief employee guide to social media use, rather than an epic, riling social media policy.

The guide should be short, focused on the positive, and emphasize common sense. It should not be about restrictions, it should encourage use, authenticity, and pride in the work you and your colleagues have achieved, whilst raising awareness of the individual’s responsibilities. Ultimately, it should encourage the exercising of good judgment.

Whatever your eventual approach, remember don’t blame the tools. Hire talented, responsible people and encourage them to get involved. If they believe in your product and actions, then you’ll have a strong advocate to help develop and grow your business. And you’ll never have to look suspiciously at your slice of pizza.