The New FDA Social Media Policy [PDF] is unlikely to achieve it’s stated purpose of encouraging “…the use of school media technologies to enhance communications.”
Developing social media policies at big organizations is tough business. Anyone who’s done it will tell you.
Still, given that many social media policies that have violated the National Labor Relations Act so far, I’m surprised to see the new policy make what appear to some pretty basic mistakes with respect to NLRA compliance, particularly since the FDA is among the last big US Federal Agencies to publish a social media policy, which means they’ve had plenty of time to develop these new rules.Read the rest of this entry »
Social media policies aren’t typically the first things that come to mind when you’re developing a social media marketing strategy.
But they should be.
Without social media policies in place, social media marketing plans are unsustainable. On social networks, reach is a function of engagement. Without engagement, there is no reach.
Thus, in order for social media marketing messages to get noticed, they need to get passed along to friends of friends and their friends. That means other people have to like, comment and share.
Drafting a social media policy may not seem as important as creating great content to share; but, if your addressable market – your employees, resellers or members – haven’t been given clear, easy-to-follow social media guidelines on permissible use, they’re much less likely to participate, so you’re much less likely to reach their friends.
When critics use social networks to focus negative attention on a company, brand, product or service, social media pundits call them social media horror stories
But before you assume that what you’ve got is an actual, bona fide social media horror story, use this litmus test for gaging the severity of an online crisis
What Are they Criticizing?
Outspoken criticism on Twitter is not, necessarily, a social media crisis. What are they criticizing exactly? Is it product performance or something else? The Motrin ads which offended a few, vocal moms and dads in 2008 got huge media attention. Social Media pundits lined up with case studies cataloging what they called the Motrin Moms social media horror story. But sales and the company’s stock performance was unaffected. Before you assume you have a crisis on your hands, ask yourself whether or not the criticism impacts the actual performance.
Are You Guilty by Omission? Nothing gets under the skin of free speech activists more than a company that is trying to hide something. The reason people support such a controversial project like Wikileaks is because they believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. If your social media horror story is the result of a perceived leak, unless you acknowledge the problem, you may have a real crisis on your hands. But if your perceived crisis result of an errant tweet by a misguidedemployee, a sincere apology my be good enough. But don’t over react. Everyone makes mistakes.
Mountains and Mole Hills
Mistakes are part of innovation. Trial and error are the mothers of invention. You cannot innovate unless you’re willing to fail. Social business is innovative. So unless you’re willing to be tolerant of your own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others, you’re not supporting innovation.
If your social media crisis is real, there’s plenty you can do, but only if you’re aware. So monitor social networks and respond quickly. And make sure your employees have social media training accessible so they know not just how to use social media, but how to use it responsibly for business. Social media policies alone are not enough. People need formal training on those policies as well.
How do you judge what constitutes a social media crisis? What aspects of online crisis communications management are most important? If I use your comment in the panel discussion, I promise full attribution.
With all the talk about the complaint PhoneDog.com filed against Noah Kravitz for “misappropriation of trade secrets and damaged the company’s business, goodwill, and reputation” some companies are liable to update their social media policy.
But those that do are making a mistake. Because if they’re going to be heard through social media, they’re going to need as much help as they can get. And they’re not going to get it by imposing ownership claims over their personal social media accounts
On social networks, crowds direct our attention. If it trends, it upends. And if it doesn’t, it just ends.
What one person tweets matters only a little. What the crowd retweets, matters most. The same social gravity applies on Facebook, Linkedin and G+. An effective corporate social media policy protects the organization and its employees alike. Afterall, why would your employees retweet your message on their personal social networking account if they’re concerned it might get them fired, or if they’re concerned you might someday try and take it away from them?
Imposing strict ownership requirements over an employee’s personal social media account discourages them from using social media for on theior employers behlaf, which means they won’t be retweeting your message. And in nowadays, you need retweets, Likes and +1s to get noticed. So a good social media policy must encourage employee participation.
…many industries had policies that required sales staff to leave their Rolodexes behind, but that these policies were as relevant to social media as Rolodexes are to the modern office. After all, social media accounts are, almost by definition, personal.
He also said that the average Twitter account had less clout than many might think.
On social networks, we crowd source news and information. If companies want to get noticed, they’ve got to get crowds talking. And in most cases, their employees are going to be easiest place to start.
Do you intend to update your social media policy as a result of this complaint, or will you wait to see what legal precedent, if any, transpires?
Are you ready to win the war against digital illiteracy?
The first step is the toughest one. But it’s also the most important.
Provide everyone with clear-cut, easy-to-follow guidelines to help them distinguish between conversations that can happen in public, and conversations that need to be kept private.
Social media has become an integral part of our personal lives. Unless organizations take the time to specify how (not if) employees can use social media at work, they risk forfeiting the chance to:
Capitalize on social marketing opportunities
Attract and retain top-notch personnel
On social networks, trends direct our attention. We have more confidence in crowds than individuals. A Yelp restaurant listing with a 3-star average and 300 ratings is more meaningful than one with a 5-star average and just 12 ratings.
For the same reason, organizations realize the true value of social marketing when everyone gets involved. The more people there are discussing a topic, the greater the likelihood others will discover it.
A corporate Twitter feed and Facebook page driven by a PR department are nice to have, but they’ll never be as useful as the conversations of a diverse, engaged community. And the larger the community, the more confidence we have in what they say, and the more likely we are to give it our attention.
Whenever an employee uses social media to get their job done, they leave behind a digital record that can be found and shared indefinitely. If you have no policy, that notion is more than a little scary. But if you’ve thought it through, it becomes a productivity windfall, because marketing becomes the byproduct of using social media to get the job done.
Remember, your employees are using social media already in their personal lives. If you’d like them to use it for business too, they need to know what’s expected. Leadership needs to set clear-cut boundaries, so employees know what is and isn’y acceptable. Companies that fail to take this step, will most likely also fail to mobilize their personnel to make the best use of social media.
It’s critical that the social media policy leadership sets be fair and just. Blocking access to Facebook from the corporate network while expecting employees to respond to email outside of business hours sets uneven standards. In fact, blocking access to social networks is both unfair and futile, because workers should have the right communicate with their friends and family, as long is it doesn’t interfere with the quality of their work.
Social media blackouts are the result of digitally illiteracy. They are enacted by misguided leaders from an age when the restricting information flows was possible and effective. But as Wikileaks, Twitter and Napster have proven, the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. Or as Esther Dyson said back in 2006, companies that profit from inefficiency will die, and for many types of communications, social media is simply more efficient.
Once the boundaries are in place, and everyone knows what can be public and what should be private, social media becomes a productivity gain, not drain.
In this environment, the organizations that can draw a clear line between public and private have a huge advantage. The road to getting there runs straight through policy, because you can’t draw that line between public and proprietary unless you do the homework to figure that out, and you can’t teach others to respect boundaries if they don’t know where they lie.
If your social media policy restricts employees from criticizing your company on social media, you definitely need to read this. And you need to read it carefully. Because it could save you a lot of money, and a lot of aggravation.
According to a story by Steve Greenhouse (@greenhousenyt) of the New York Times, the National Labor Relations Board threatened to sue Reuters last week for reprimanding an employee for using her Twitter account to publicly criticize the company.
The employee, Deborah Zabarenko (@dzabarenko), who is also the head of the Newspaper Guild at Reuters, posted the following tweet as an @reply to a Reuters corporate Twitter account:
“One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members.”
She was reprimanded for the tweet by her direct supervisor, who said her public critic could damage Reuters reputation. But according to the National Labor Relations Board, which tipped off Greenhouse through an anonymous source, employees have a legal right to engage in public dialogue, however critical it may be, to improve their working conditions.
A Reuters spokesperson replied by saying that the company has a social media policy, but I couldn’t find anything that applies to how employees can use social for internal communications. Erin Kurtz (@eekurtz), Reuters Head of Publicity has not yet responded to my email asking for clarification, but if she does, I’ll definitely update this post.
No compliant has yet been filed, and according to Greenhouse, the National Labor Relations Board has been known to threaten legal action as a way of forcing out-of-court settlements. The National Labor Relations Board is a U.S. Government Agency.
The issue of whether or not employees can publicly criticize their employers via social media has never been tested in U.S. Federal Court. Greenhouse notes that in November 2010, a Connecticut ambulance company settled out of court with the NLRB for firing a worker who posted a Facebook status update critical of her supervisor.
And while the amount of that settlement was undisclosed, the two incidents may warrant revisiting your company’s social media policy to see of you’ve got any language in there that could be seen as restricting your employee’s rights to free speech.
External social media channels should not be used for internal business communications among fellow employees. It is fine for employees to disagree, but please don’t use your external blog or other online social media channels to air your differences publicly.
But given the risks that potentially restricting free speech may pose, you might consider asking your legal counsel about adding the following language:
Worker’s have the right to engage in conversations with co-workers to improve working conditions.
With the use of social networks in business becoming more pervasive, it’s going to get tougher for companies not just to avoid developing an official social media policy, but also to ensure those policies are constitutional.
As social media becomes a common channel of communications, corporations with policies need to make sure their legal staff has the social media literacy to keep them up to date.
We will be discussing this matter in depth in the next episode of the B2B Social Media podcast with Chris Boudreaux who specializes in corporate social media policy development.
What’s your view on this development? Will you update your social media policy as a result? And if so, how?
Social media advocacy by groups like the AARP shaped the debate over national healthcare reform last year, and will hold tremendous sway over the outcomes of the current budget stalemate, the 2012 presidential election and next year’s budget debate (Republicans have already proposed $4 trillion in cuts in the 2012 federal budget).
Web 2.0 advocacy is now a decisive lever in national policy debates, and has been put to good use recently by organizations not immediately associated with blogs, Facebook and Twitter, according to communications leaders at nationwide advocacy groups.
Social media activism helps organizations of every political stripe to efficiently mobilize members around policy debates, and the power of such tactics has been skyrocketing alongside social media adoption. The value of new media advocacy lies it is ability to drive engagement as part of a call to action.
With budget matters so hotly debated that the federal government is approaching a shutdown, communications pros for organizations on both sides of the debate need to make the very most of two-way social media conversations to win the day. If you were tasked with finding, and inspiring, constituents in a group to call Congressmen, vote for a candidate or join a protest, how would you use social media to get your people moving? Read the rest of this entry »