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Monday, 22 April 2013

The Perils of Social Everything

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Watching the news on the latest domestic terror attack has become an exercise in self-control. Forgetting your political views, FOX is anything but “fair and balanced” and CNN has proven (thank you John King) that they are not really “the most trusted name in news.”  How ironic is it that the most accurate reporting is now done on late night comedy with Jon Stewart highlighting the numerous errors and inconsistencies from news agencies across the country?  

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I was watching two reporters last week attempting to fill air time with guesses, assumptions and pure irresponsible journalism. I thought it odd, or perhaps a sad realization of our current times that any idiot with a mic, an earpiece and a reasonably attractive appearance can present themselves as professional journalists and say anything to the masses no matter how inaccurate it may be. It struck me that this is exactly what so many organizations fear with their employees and social capabilities; either external or internal.

The line seems to have blurred between fact and opinion. News is no longer news – it’s information. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand I would like to be presented with information that I know to be true and relevant. On the other hand I would like to be able to understand multiple views and make an informed and educated decision on what I believe to be true. How do we navigate this new reality as we venture into the social landscape within our organizations?

I’m a huge proponent of internal social collaboration platforms; especially when they are integrated into a complete talent management system. But understanding the aforementioned pitfalls are key to defining and creating a governance structure that balances the ability to share information with accuracy. We can’t control the message with social capabilities. But we can respond, explain and guide. Allowing employees to post at-will helps support engagement, inclusion and trust. It enables organizations to capture and re-purpose knowledge as content, as well as prevent our intellectual capital from disappearing when people leave.

Will some employees say not-so-nice things? Of course they will. But this can be addressed with tact and, don’t forget, they are saying these things now offline. Providing a venue to showcase misperceptions is a great way to encourage discussion and debate as well as provide a mechanism to explain the organization’s position or justification. And in the end – it always amazes me when leadership focuses on how they need to control the message or create disciplinary policies to handle unhappy employees. Aren’t these the same employees that you trust with your inventory, your customers, and your very existence?

It’s truly a brave new world. Without a well-defined social strategy you run the risk of alienating your workforce, deterring future workers, or missing out on expanding the capabilities of your talent. The promise of social collaboration is a democratized workforce with just-in-time access to the people and information they need to meet your business goals. Be aware of the pitfalls and plan accordingly. Just because you provide them an internet connection and the tools doesn’t mean they will fill air-time with meaningless dribble…they have the major news networks for that.

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