November 03, 2014

The Threat of Social Media



Back in August I published a blog posting regarding social media’s impact on revolutionizing the enterprise (for reference it can be found by clicking here).  Based on the feedback and questions that were sent to me, it was well received.  One of the themes from the comments were how social media was perceived as a threat towards the corporate presence as well as how information regarding the business has been made available.  Over the past few years social media has truly altered how news is reported.  Not only has it modified the timing of when we receive news and information, but it has also essentially turned 3 billion plus internet connected people (http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/) into a reporter of some kind.  So why is this concept of information sharing still seen today as a threat by the majority of enterprises?

IT Industry experts are predicting that we will begin to see more social media updates and blog posts in 2015 from companies, but only because they have to.  In order to obtain a competitive edge in not only attracting new talent, but being seen as a stand out employer and retaining talent, companies recognize the need to use social media.  Thesocialskinny.com has stated that 58% of people are more likely to want to work for a company if they use social media on a regular basis, while 20% of existing employees will stay for the same reasons.  Really?  By using only one technology tool not only are you able to attract talent, but keep it?  The reasoning behind this is that people want to work for interesting companies, as well as honest and transparent companies.  Candidates feel that if they see social media posts, it gives them a better sense of what the organization is all about.  They don’t want to see only corporate websites and press releases on financials.  They are looking for something more “real” and of which they can relate to.  

When harnessed properly, social media has tremendous potential to impact business operations in a positive manner.  Not only can it be used to influence your brand, but it can also be used to separate yourself from the competition.  Even with these large upsides, the feeling by businesses continues to see social media as a threat, and surround such mechanisms with very tight policies around its use, primarily restricting work discussions or job functions on your personal profiles.  Given that about one in five status updates on Facebook are job or career related, one wonders if this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

On almost a weekly basis I have discussions with company leaders discussing how their employees have used a social media site while on the job, and what recommendations do I have in order to restrict this.  I respond with there should be no threat in what people are posting, and that the control lies in how they manage their people.  If your employees feel the need to air “dirty laundry” on social media, perhaps the root cause stems from management style.  My belief is that departmental leaders need to accept people will use social media to talk about work.  Instead of taking a hardline stance by banning or blocking its use, we should instead implement policies that educate staff about potential damage to the business.  Corporations should consider giving guidance about constructive comments, rather than simply penalizing them over indiscretions.  The impact on the brand and how potential employees see the organization will leave a positive impression.  Without even trying, a company will be seen as embracing new technologies and understanding the importance of using social media tools as it relates to an employee’s need for self-expression.  And truthfully, if we do not embrace an employee’s want for this freedom, they will simply rely on under-cover tools such as glassdoor.com to get their point across anyways.

As a job seeker, many organizations will provide career opportunity for them to use their skillset.  It is the added experience of training, technology tools, and user policies surrounding things like social media that can separate you as an organization from the others.  Some companies have begun to advertise this along with job postings just to show the kind of business they are.  I know I like to use the latest and greatest in technology tools.  It’s this drive that keeps consumers lining up during cell phone release days.

As a decision maker on hiring the next candidate to fill a vacancy, ask yourself do you simply want an individual who puts in their 40 hours a week, and does the bare minimum?  Or are you looking for an individual who not only fulfills a niche, but is willing to bring fresh ideas to improve efficiency, a flexible person who can use more than the corporate technology and someone who is engaged in the daily process?  What is social media if not simply a tool to engage and encourage people?

I’m Mike M.