Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Social Media in Corporate Environments: Realism Needed

Prompted by a tweet by Phil Bradley, linking to his blog, it occurred to me finally to get round to posting something on the subject of control, trust and social media in large (especially regulated) organisations.

Many of my social media / Enterprise 2.0 evangelist friends seem to be pretty laissez-faire when it comes to the subject of the amount of freedom employees ought to have in relation to the use of social media tools. I have a lot of sympathy for that viewpoint. Widespread adoption of blogging, tweeting/yammering and the use of collaborative spaces within and even outside the firewall has the capacity, at least in theory, to open up an organisation and make it both more effective and more congenial a place to work. Or, to turn that around, the open culture required to enable widespread use of these tools is a prerequisite to an effective and congenial organisation in the modern era.

I also think, though, that the extreme libertarians, if I can call them that, are either unaware of, or are ignoring, some important legal and regulatory matters that apply to many large firms. If these are ignored, a firm can easily find itself exposed to reputational damage, loss of confidential information and/or perhaps regulatory sanctions.

The problem is that in some, probably many, firms these issues are cited as the reason for not letting employees use social media. They may have genuine fears about the legal or commercial risks, or they may simply not want to do it for other reasons, and use these risks as an excuse. The ones with genuine fears and concerns can be helped, and my next post will provide some ideas for tackling the issues. Those firms that are making excuses will need to get through their state of denial before anything can be done. As a starting point they need to realise that the genie is out of the bottle; that social media/networking is here to stay, and that if they don't get involved their competitors will start to leave them behind.