Social media for work: Just add common sense

I was interested to read the story last week about the number of police officers who have been disciplined in relation to the misuse of social media.

These stories crop up ever so often, either about the police, councils or other public bodies. I’ve seen a number of FOIs that hope to uncover some secret scandal about hundreds of public officials unable to control themselves as soon as they’re left in charge of a twitter account.

The truth is, some people say or do stupid or even offensive things sometimes. And where there is serious offence caused of course, it should be investigated – the same way as it would if it occurred offline. But these kinds of issues existed long before social media was invented – Facebook didn’t make this happen.

I was really pleased to then read this follow up piece in PR Week, which included the response from Amanda Coleman, Greater Manchester Police’s Director of Corporate Comms. It was particularly interesting to read this bit:

Amanda Coleman told PRWeek that just three of the 88 incidents investigated involved official police accounts and off-duty use was the main issue.

“The problems that arise are often in people’s personal use, where people will say and do things as they would while having a conversation down the pub. We have very few issues with staff trained to use social media at work.”

Often when I’m training people to use social media for work one of the things they ask is: “what if I say the wrong thing?” I just ask them whether they trust themselves to speak face to face with members of the public (of course they do) and then ask them why they would be saying something online that they wouldn’t say in person.

It’s true that social media has blurred the lines between our professional and individual personas. And I would agree that the standards we’re asked to maintain in our work life should carry on into our personal lives, especially if we’re making public statements on the internet. I think that’s common sense and good advice for anyone to follow.

Of course, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. If an organisation encourages its employees to use social media in their work and wants to enjoy the positive benefits that having actively engaged employees online can bring, they need to adopt a supportive and understanding culture. Otherwise staff won’t want to ‘take the risk’ and won’t be willing to be the online advocates you would wish them to be.

If people use their common sense and their professionalism, then, like Amanda says, there shouldn’t be too many issues. And, if we trust staff to be a representative of the organisation in person then we should be able to do the same online.

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Crisis comms, Twitter tools, Facebook rules & the changing newspaper world: 4 top reads this week

Here are four of the most interesting reads I’ve found on the web this week:

‘Cut out and keep’ guide to crisis management – Catherine Lane covers the basics of how to respond to a crisis – the rest is up to us! Speed, clarity and establishing yourself as the trustworthy source of information are key.

Embed a tweet within a tweet – I love a new little trick and I really like this one, which allows you to link to a tweet in your tweet and have an image preview of that tweet appear underneath your comment. Brilliant if you want to comment but just don’t have enough characters. It also means you’re including an ‘image’ with your tweet too, helping boost your tweet’s engagement rate – brilliant.

Facebook is demolishing the like gate – From November, Facebook no longer wants page owners to incentivise people to ‘like’ their pages – so you won’t be allowed to prevent people from entering a competition or getting a discount if they haven’t ‘liked’ your page. The aim is to make sure that page likes are really genuine – that they come from users who want to stay in touch with the content on your page. I’ve never used a ‘like gate’ on any of my pages, but have run competitions where users have been asked to ‘like’ the page to enter. I think there is a place for this, if the thing you’re giving away is specifically relevant to the page you manage – e.g. a Spa business giving away a pamper day – you would hope the kind of people who would enter are local to that place and interested in attending that Spa. Therefore, asking them to ‘like’ the page seems perfectly reasonable as it should be in line with their interests. However, if that same Spa was giving away £50 cash and you had to ‘like’ the page to qualify, then the potential competition entrants may not be interested in the Spa business at all and you can see the problem. Maybe there’s room for some discretion on this one – what do you think?

David Dinsmore: ‘We aren’t as obsessed by the Daily Mail as we used to be’ – Not the most popular newspaper around my part of the world, but still interesting to read Sun editor David Dinsmore’s views on how the newspaper industry is changing around him. He says that:  “In this hugely fragmented media environment, we understand that our competitive set is not other papers. It’s Google, Facebook and BuzzFeed, even Netflix, as much as the Mail. And it’s also Alton Towers and where you go shopping.”

 

The true ‘value’ of social media marketing

I was reading this post by Neville Hobson: ‘Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and how to change that’ the other day and it got me thinking.

It’s quite amazing to me that some people don’t want to accept that social media has changed the world, like it or not. People’s expectations of how companies will communicate with them have changed. Many people I know would be reluctant to use the services of a company which doesn’t have a website – and I think that this will increasingly apply to companies who have no social media presence.

As Neville Hobson says in his post, the best way to get the ‘powers that be’ to understand the value of social media is to get them on there themselves. Let them see for themselves the professional value that being on Twitter or LinkedIn can provide – as a way of networking, information gathering, profile raising, building trust. Once they understand that social media is not all about Justin Bieber and pictures of what you had for dinner, you will have their interest. Once they see how the companies and individuals they admire are using social media, they’ll start to want that for themselves and their company too.

As communications people, we have a duty to help the less social media savvy members of our organisation understand the value of social media. We flag up complaints, possible issues or negative feedback that people post about our organisation on social media. But are we as good at showcasing the positive interactions? You can understand why somebody only seeing the negative side of the picture would wonder: “why are we doing this?”

In the world of Local Government comms, we know, that when we answer a person’s question quickly, efficiently, and actually get their problem sorted out, they’re usually pleased. They’re happy that, with one tweet, they’ve managed to get their bin emptied, flytipping removed, streetlight fixed, whatever. Even the most frequent posters of complaints or issues on to a council’s social media accounts are only looking to have those issues dealt with, and when they are, usually there’ll be a “thanks”. Actually what they’re doing is being an active, engaged citizen, who cares about the place they live and likes to know that they only have to post a quick comment on Facebook, or a tweet, and that information will be passed on and dealt with. That’s pretty brilliant in anyone’s book.

Local authorities are not so worried about monetary ROI as the CEOs in Neville Hobson’s post. But of course time is precious, and everyone in the organisation wants to be sure that effort and resources are not wasted on anything which doesn’t demonstrate a true “value” of some sort.

So it’s important that when good things happen on social media, we’re sharing that with the people at the top, as well the less positive things. If we can get more of those positive examples noticed, that slightly intangible “value” of social media will start to be recognised more. It is about conversations, building relationships, and expanding customer service online into the places where our residents already are.

I’m sure there are far fewer social media sceptics at the top of organisations than there used to be – and comms has a vital role to play in helping the uninitiated understand what they’re missing out on. As for reputational risk – the risk of not using social media far outweighs the risk of doing so – it’s what your customers and stakeholders now expect of you.

It will soon be impossible to ignore the expectations of social media – if it isn’t already.

4 best links of the week

Here are 4 of the best things I’ve read this week – hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Five challenges for student union comms – A really interesting piece by Jo Walters, Digital Engagement Manager at the University of Sussex Students Union, on the brilliant Comms2Point0 blog. She makes the point that today’s students are a very different breed to the stereotype we might have in our minds – or even to the kind of students we were not that long ago. With the rise of smartphones and social media, long gone are the days when a poster in the Student Union was the main form of communication…

Five things businesses need to know about Facebook’s save feature – I love the fact that Facebook finally offer the chance for users to ‘save’ relevant links that pop in their newsfeed to read later. I’m going to use it a lot – but it’s also a good thing for Facebook page managers. In this post, author Mari Smith makes some really good points about how we might want to consider adapting our content as a result – she suggests more posts with links (which can be saved), for example. As this post rightly points out, Facebook is not currently offering any analytics on the save feature – so page managers will not know how many times their content has been saved for later. I think that would be a really useful thing to know – so hopefully Facebook will think about introducing that in coming months.

Why Content marketing fails – A really humorous guide to content marketing by Rand Fishkin. Very entertaining but also packed with advice. I’d recommend showing this to anybody who ‘doesn’t get’ content marketing yet – but even for those who already live and breathe it there are some tips and advice which will help you ‘fail’ less!

Why increased visibility on Twitter is just a few tweaks away – While a lot of the advice in this post by Sprout Social is basic stuff, it’s good to go back to basics once in a while and make sure you’re still getting the fundamentals right. The advice on using no more than 2 hashtags per tweet actually made me realise my organisation should be using them more – hashtags are something we probably don’t make enough of at the moment (but we will keep it to no more than two when we do!) I was also interested to read that the majority of users prefer it when you capitalise the first letter of every word in your tweet – something that I personally dislike… not sure I can bring myself to do this?!?