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Four Things to Consider Once Your Company Opens Up Social Media Access

February 3, 2011
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Related Topics: Policies and Procedures, Workforce Planning, Featured Article, Technology
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When it comes to social media and your organization, you probably fall into one of two camps: You’re either sick of hearing all the hype related to what social media can do for your firm, or you’re frustrated that your company doesn’t trust you enough to allow you to check your personal e-mail or Facebook account at work.

Because I can’t help myself, I’m offering up the following morality play performed millions of times daily within the bowels of corporate America:

Your employee: Opens up browser to post something witty on Twitter or Facebook.

Your network: Blocks the employee from accessing the social network in question, perhaps with the digital equivalent of a little finger wagging at the employee (bonus malice points if the message the employee sees refers to the social network in question as “the” Facebook/Twitter).

Your employee: Promptly swivels in chair to access the social network in question through the browser on his or her smart phone. Your company isn’t blocking cell towers in your buildings, right?

The verdict: Employee continues to think they are smarter than you. Based on this morality play, they have a decent case.

But I digress. With all the workplaces blocking social media, it’s evident that the irony of the social media workaround outlined above hasn’t hit home yet. But it will. It just takes time.

As the percentage of companies allowing access to social networks grows, you need to realize there are strategic things related to social media you’ll need to figure out as a progressive human resources pro. No one else in your organization is thinking about the issues necessary to have a meaningful approach to social media related to human capital strategy.

What issues, you ask? Consider the following gems that will kill you if you don’t figure them out:

1. Purpose. When you grant access to social media across your company, are you doing it because you’re benevolent, or do you think there’s actually a business opportunity in that decision? If you’re simply doing it because it feels good, stop reading now. If you think there’s a business opportunity in granting access, read on. You need to figure some things out quickly.

2. Portability. If you thought portability only referred to moving your cell number across wireless providers, you were wrong. Portability in social media refers to who owns what related to social media, and whether the intellectual capital related to social media moves with employees when they leave your company or stay with the firm. As you might expect, portability is reflected in the following details of ownership:

• Do accounts used in any way for company purposes belong to the employee or the company? The most effective use of social media seamlessly blends company brand and individual personality. While that works from a branding perspective, it’s hell when attempting to lay claim to social media accounts initialized by employees or the resulting networks built over time.
• Who owns the networks established by an employee on company time? When team members capture new members of a social network or a utility like LinkedIn, who owns the network? Do they own it or does the company? You need to figure out what you’re comfortable with now before a recruiter leaves with 60 percent of your recruiting network on his or her LinkedIn account, then disables the ability for you to view the connections. Ouch.

The earlier you figure out portability, the better off you are. Once you figure out the importance of portability, you’ll want to pay attention to the next item on our list—naming.

3. Naming. As you open up access to social media across your company, you’ll find that there are three types of activity, including the following:

• Totally personal. I just had a Pop-Tart for lunch. Who cares? You are correct—no one. Move on, because there’s nothing strategic to do with this segment. You opened it up, so they use it, like the toilets in the bathroom.
• Totally corporate. You couldn’t wait to activate the ACME twitter account. Congrats, it’s active and has the personality of Ben Stein on downers. Play on, because there’s no sizzle to this steak—no one will ever try to steal it from you. It’s yours.
• A mix of personal and professional social media activity. Danger! Here’s the type of social media activity where a naming strategy really comes into play. Looking to engage recruiters or marketing pros to start using social media in a way that develops them professionally and builds the company’s brand? Naming is the main issue you need to figure out before they start. If you’re going to underwrite the investment of time and focus related to social media, get in front of portability issues with a naming convention that makes sense.

Here’s an example of naming issues in the corporate social media realm. Let’s say you engage one of your recruiters to become active on Twitter in hopes of augmenting your recruiting efforts. Her name is Jen Smalls and your company’s name is ACME. Do you require her to do all Twitter work under the twitter handle @ACMEjen or @ACMErecruiter, or do you allow her to do the work under the decidedly personal @jensmalls?

Each name means something different related to portability and Jen’s ability to develop an interesting and compelling presence related to your company’s brand and her personal credibility. Allow the presence to be built via the @jensmalls handle and you have no shot at claiming the brand equity on behalf of your company.

4. Personality. Once you’ve analyzed your purpose for opening up social media access, sorted out portability issues and the naming decisions for social media accounts that follow, you’re free to develop some personality related to your company’s social media presence.

Remember one thing: Unless you plan on doing all company business through a fully corporately branded social media presence, there’s always some probability the social media equity that’s built belongs more to the employee than to you.

If you decide that’s the best path to getting business results for your company through social media (and many companies have been successful with that strategy), play on.

Just make sure you ask the questions before you get started.

Workforce Management Online, February 2011 -- Register Now!

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