Social media: turning useful employees into mindless gossip peddlers?

That does it.   Another major Greek corporation inviting all employess to a briefing on social media.   Not “legal issues concerning what you can and can’t write online about the company”.    Not “ten useful things you need to know about how best to integrate social media in your life.”   But “how and why you should spend more time doing marketing for the company doing social media instead of your normal job.”

No two ways around it.   We used to split people within a company to those that faced the customers and those that didn’t.   There are good reasons for this.   Not everyone is good at communication.   Corporate communication is more complicated than private chat.   You need to take into account many more factors and weight them with much more care.   Yet time and time again in the past year I see companies wanting to “enable” all their employees to speak on behalf of the company.   Marketing departments are shrinking and the extra work is going to …everyone!

So Mr Joe from engineering is sitting in a seminar about social media.  His personal facebook page and all 120 friends used to seeing his favourites on youtube, views on politics and photos from his holidays now get a …company press release?  “Hey everybody, my company has a new facebook page, please press ‘like’ immediately!”   This may sound stupid but how far away is it from what is actually happening?

I sometimes have difficulty switching from one project to another.   Especially in the early stages of a job when I have to immerse myself in their world completely in order to discover that best path which they haven’t seen yet.   Like an actor’s studio method I have to become one with the marketing people, management and the customer.   But this is my job and I have developed ways to deal with it.   Your employees haven’t.

If your company has vision, strategy and everything else they keep going on about in these fashionable social media seminars then it wouldn’t need to train everyone in how to use them.    If we all understand the company’s vision, it permeates what we are and what we do.   It will wash through to what employees communicate about on facebook or twitter like it does when they chat to neighboors around the barbeque.   You don’t need to do something special.   Asking them to take on communication tasks carries the most serious risk of them losing focus of what you really hired them to do.   Your entire team can fall apart.   Publicly, on social media!

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