Several things hung around in my head in the days after the successful ‘facebook in the public sector’ (#fbps12) event held at my beloved St. Andrews.
First, the sheer positivity with which colleagues from 40 organisations are embracing the opportunity to communicate and engage better with their customers.
Second, a reminder that all organisations have their own individual strengths and weaknesses, things they do well, and things they could improve upon.
And third, the short-sightedness of banning staff from social media.
The last point is a frustration for many. And yet so easily changed.
These bans appear – based on the feedback of those at the conference at least – to emanate from fear and from a lack of understanding of social media. And that somehow, in droves, staff will go off and do silly things and mis-use these platforms.
I haven’t seen any evidence which support these fears.
During the unconference sessions in the afternoon, I led a discussion on such bans and with a view to developing a simple but very robust business case for why these bans should be lifted. A side of A4 ‘arguments for’ document which every officer could use within their own organisations.
The list is not definitive – it wasn’t meant to be. But it was crowd-sourced from colleagues from around 20 organisations so carries weight, experience and learning.
This list will be posted in the downloads section of comms2point0 and we can add further points to it as and when others chip in.
So, here are 20 reasons why you should open up social media access to all of your staff…
- We don’t ban our staff from using a telephone or talking face-to-face to customers – so why would we ban staff from engaging with our customers via social media?
- Why be short-sighted and ban social media for all – if someone mis-uses it there is a code of conduct to bring into force. Simple.
- Worried that shirkers will, well, shirk on social media? Then deal with the shirkers and the shirking.
- Why bother giving access to the internet at all if you are going to ban legitimate web sites?
- If it’s a concern, develop and promote a social media policy in order to get the most out of it.
- Many staff have smartphones now and can access social media through them anyway whenever they want to at work.
- “I can engage with 4,000 customers via our twitter feed but with almost none of my own colleagues at work. That’s madness.”
- Do we ban staff from reading newspapers? Is there any real difference?
- It’s important to make the differential between opening up social media to staff ‘to read’ and opening up social media for staff ‘to post’. Do the powers that be understand the difference?
- Research appears to now indicate that staff will not read or ‘like’ their employers social media feeds and pages if they are banned from looking at them at work (and many staff are residents and customers so why alienate in this way?)
- Staff should be an organisation’s advocates. Why create this unnecessary barrier?
- The huge opportunity for ‘myth-busting’ via social media is lost if you ban your own staff from engaging and getting involved. The riots of 2011 gave multiple examples of where staff helped stop rumours.
- If social media use by staff risks bringing viruses into an organisation then your firewalls are rubbish.
- It’s very easy to ban or warn an individual member of staff who mis-uses social media at work or says something libellous. But don’t penalise everyone with an organisational ban.
- You will create yourself a credibility gap in banning social media use at work. Most staff are adults and self-regulate their behaviour.
- If your customers are using social media to make enquiries why on earth would you prevent staff from helping them through these channels?
- Why would you not want to embrace free channels of engagement with residents, routes which some customers are happy to channel shift to voluntarily (and which can reduce an organisations costs)?
- Reputational damage – in the absence of a forward-thinking, positive and innovative organisational culture, an opposite culture will develop…
- Should we also ban telephones and bring in a telephone usage protocol and telephone effectiveness assessment form? It isn’t right, helpful or necessary to separate out social media from other customer channels.
- Banning social media means that an organisation does not trust its own staff. And it also suggests that they do not trust their managers to manage their own staff. What a sad reflection (that one courtesy of @siwhitehouse)
I’m convinced that in a few short years’ time we’ll look back on conversations and debates like these and laugh that they even took place.
For some organisations, social media use and access is actually just a smokescreen – actually, there are more serious cultural issues and problems lurking on or near the surface.
Organisations which have full access to all staff, such as Monmouthshire County Council, Coventry City Council and Bromford Homes, will reap the benefits of creating a more open, trusting, innovative and inclusive workplace in aspects far, far wider than just their social media outputs and outcomes. They will be organisations which thrive and develop because of those cultures of trust.
And they will be the types of organisations which the next batch of bright young graduates want to go and work for, rather than those with closed minds.
and top tips on getting senior management buy-in are here