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Concerned About Social Media?

According to a Russell Herder/Ethos study social media is creating heartburn for many organizations.  The study indicates what the underlying issues are that are causing heartburn.

Fifty-one percent of executives surveyed said they fear social media could be detrimental to employee productivity, while 49 percent believe that using such could damage company reputation. In fact, those surveyed who are not using social media on a corporate basis say non-implementation is primarily due to concern about confidentiality or security issues (40%), employee productivity (37%) or simply not knowing enough about it (51%).

Despite these apprehensions, social networking is being viewed as a key strategy. Eight in 10 said social media can enhance relationships with customers/clients (81%) and build brand reputation (81%).

The recently completed Russell Herder/Ethos study found that 40 percent of companies technically block their employees from accessing social media while at work. At the same time, 26 percent of companies use social media to further corporate objectives, and just over seven in 10 said they plan to increase the use of these new opportunities.

Remarkably few efforts are being made to mitigate perceived risks. Only one in three businesses surveyed has a policy in place to govern social media use, and only ten percent said they have conducted relevant employee training.

“Rather than bypass the social media opportunity, organizations should embrace it while taking steps to educate their team about internal guidelines and best practices,” said Carol Russell, CEO of Russell Herder. “Companies of all sizes should begin to define their strategy regarding social media, and most importantly, the rules for employee engagement. By doing so, management can take advantage of the benefits offered by these new communication channels, while mitigating undue risk.”

Ethos President David Baer,  agrees: “Social media is a far different animal than traditional technology, so a company’s current policies on IT matters are usually not sufficient. Plus, such guidelines must take into consideration the form, substance, philosophy and culture of the organization.”

The Wrong Fear?

Fearing social media is much like “fearing” what employees, suppliers and customer had previously discussed, you never knew but now at least you do.  Social media is the enabler of previous feelings and conversations that typically happen off site, behind closed doors and during employee gathering. While there is a need for “policies” regarding use of social media in respect to company information the greater need is to listen, learn and change accordingly.

Most corporate cultures listen to directions given by leaders and managers. Disagreeing with said directions is “politically incorrect” so while people may not agree they march on just to keep their job.  The route cause of fear about social media in any organization is a cultural disease that plaques most organization. If you have the wrong culture that isn’t conducive to team work (more than words), bottom up and sideways feedback, plus an obsession with satisfying the customer then you should indeed fear social media.

The irony of trying to “control conversations” to protect the dirty little secrets of “cultural diseases” is akin to saying and believing no one will ever know how good or bad our product or service really is.  Here is a little advice. There are no secrets rather there are experiences and conversations and now the world hears and sees it. What organizations should really be concerned about is how to improve management practices and subsequently the culture. Get it?

What say you?

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