Thursday, May 14, 2009

Social Media REALLY scares some businesses

It’s the technological boogeyman of the moment. What businesses can do to overcome the fear.

Social Media you’ve really come a long way. You’ve grown from geeky young kid to awkward teenager. And now you’ve really made it: You’re a young adult and you really, really scare a lot of business owners and managers.

Social Media is the technological boogeyman of the moment.

What if my employees give away company secrets? What if they harass someone? What if they waste time?

In an earlier age it these questions were all asked of other “new” technologies: first the telephone and then the personal computer. It seems each age has a piece of technology that frightens business.

A recent survey found businesses fear Social Media. Sophos, a British IT security firm, found that”Two thirds of businesses fear that social networking endangers corporate security”. The basis of this fear is that business owners believe employees will reveal too much personal information and too much company information – thereby endangering the company.

But its more than that. Businesses – at least some of them – actively dislike the idea of Social Media because customers have all the power.

Mary Ellen Slayter writing on explains Why business is hostile to social networking and says Social media makes the top people at any business nervous because it makes them feel vulnerable.

But, really there is nothing to fear. Here’s what businesses need to do:

Review existing company policies: Is there anything in the existing company handbook or the employee policies that needs new language to cover any situation in Social Media? It’s unlikely. Harassment, revealing company secrets and being unprofessional look and sound the same regardless of where they happen.

Reinforce the policies: Make sure everyone who works for you understands that the employee policies apply for all interactions and in all places where they can be perceived to be representing the company.

Train and empower your employees: Encourage your workers to engage in the community – in person and online. Make sure everyone knows that they have the power to help the business by the way they behave in public … and yes, Social media counts as in public. Give them great information about your business and encourage them to help tell your story.

Walk the walk: Many top executives talk about open communications and welcoming feedback … it’s time to live up to that. Encourage employees to communicate with you and be sure to respond. Also: engage with your customers yourself. Start a blog. Sign up for Twitter and or Facebook. You will be surprised how much your customers appreciate the access.

Monitor your brand name and competitors in Social media: This seems obvious, but most companies do not yet understand that conversations about them are happening all the time in the Social Networks, they just aren’t aware of them. Either make kit someone’s job or hire someone to do it for you.

Relax: Really! Now! Would you think twice about your employees using a PC or a telephone. One day you WILL laugh about how you were once so worried about your employees being on Social Media.

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