Thursday, 29 December 2011

We don't want everyone on social media, do we?

Last week I had an exchange on Twitter with one of my friends, where she suggested that we don't want everyone in our organisations to be on social media. She suggested that for some people or roles, social media might not be a great idea. If you know me, you probably can already guess that I disagreed*.

I think that it would be great if everyone in an organisation could have some social media presence in a work capacity - it's about how they use it and for what. Can you imagine how much more rounded a picture your customers or stakeholders would have of your organisation if they could see all the (unsung) hard work that goes on?

Imagine if an Estate Manager could promote their estate inspections on Twitter or could film an area of litter being cleaned up and post it on YouTube and then share it on the Facebook page of their local neighbourhood.

Imagine if a Customer Service Adviser in a call centre could share in real time on Twitter that there had been an influx of calls asking a particular question and what the answer was, to save people the bother of calling.

Imagine if an Antisocial Behaviour Co-ordinator could empower the silent majority by posting the results of cases on Facebook and demonstrate that reports of antisocial behaviour are dealt with.

Imagine if the Finance Team could share how they have embedded value for money through video blogging so other organisations could learn from them too.

West Midlands Police is a great example of an organisation that is moving this way. From the WMP Helicopter on Twitter to Facebook pages for each Local Policing Unit to YouTube channels for Central Motorway Police,  they are truly embedding social media in everything they do - and improving their reputation by doing so. Hell, even Police Dog Smithy tweets. I think if the Police can do it, with all the challenges they face, other organisations can and should open up in the same way.

There are obvious risks with opening up social media use in this way, but they can be mitigated. I think training and support have a big part to play; finding the people who are excited and willing to give it a go, starting with them, going slowly, building their confidence, making them aware of the risks and dangers and how to handle them...

I'd love to hear your examples of where social media has been opened up and what you've learnt from it.

*I conceded that spies may not find it helpful to be on social media (!) but everyone else: yes.


  1. People who say things like that are descended from those who thought universal literacy was a threat to social order. I'm sure also, there were people who didn't want everyone to be able to use the telephone.

  2. That's interesting stuff as ever, Kate.

    There's been some really good feedback of social presences which are run by staff in the field. At Walsall Council, where I work we've pretty much passed the 50 mark across five platforms. We're keen to encourage more people to use it.

    Why? Because it enables people to communicate directly with residents who share an interest and share what you are doing. In real time.

    But rather than being the finished article this is now an ongoing project. You need someone to encourage and share good practice. People do sometimes need a Linus blanket of help and support to get started or if things go awry.

    However, I have reached the unshakable conclusion that not everyone will adopt this stuff and that yes, you may not actually want everyone to.

    Often, I use the telephone as an example of what social media is. When that arrived there was opposition and then people gradually accepted it.

    But if you look around you, you don't have to look far to find people who really dislike using the telephone and feel intensely uncomfortable on it. How many years has it been since that was introduced in the workplace?

    There are people in the organisation who are just not suited to using the telephone on behalf of the organisation and that's fine. They may well be doing something very worthwhile but off the beaten track in the back office.

    The trick, I think, is to create the opportunity to use social media for people who are keen to use it.

    I can't help but think that if we fast forward 10 years there will still be people not using it but a body of people who do. And that's also actually fine.

  3. Thank you Dan, really useful comment.
    I think you're probably right, that there will always be some people who don't want to use social media. And I definitely agree that you have to start with the people who are interested to learn.
    The position I wouldn't want to get into though is one where customers in one area received a lower quality service because someone didn't like using social media.
    Social media savvy is a professional skill of our age that it would benefit everyone to master.
    It's the same with the telephone - some people are awkward or uncomfortable using it, but how much easier would their job be and how much better would their service to their organisation be, if they could master it?


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