Social Media Policy and Your 15 minutes of Fame

November 23rd, 2009 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

Andy Warhol said that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes.  For one Atlanta area teacher, that fame – or rather, infamy – comes in the form of pictures posted on her Facebook page.  Over the summer this particular teacher took a trip to Europe where she was included in snapshots with friends at dinner and over drinks.  Seems simple enough, except that she posted the pictures on her Facebook page, where a parent got wind of the posting and complained.

What is a teacher to do?  What is any employee to do?

Typically teachers are held to pretty high standards of behavior, detailed in county level morals clauses and statewide professional standards.  So why all the fuss and confusion?  In this case, there seems to be a lack of clear and thoughtful social media policies at the county level.  In fact, the Atlanta area system where this incident occurred isn’t schedule to consider developing or implementing social media guidelines until December.

Unfortunately, this is not surprising.  A recent MarketingSherpa survey revealed that only 33% of large businesses and organizations have implemented a Social Media Policy.  The other 67% either don’t recognize the need, or are still in the development process.

Why are so many companies dragging their feet?  There are a couple of reasons:

Fad – Too many corporations still think that social media interactions are a fad.  Why would any no nonsense, well regarded brand embrace a medium built on chit chat and status updates?  These entities think of social media as time wasters and discourage usage.  The reality is that the medium is here to stay.  Whether it’s called Facebook tomorrow, people will still be interacting in the social media space.  Smart companies will embrace this and develop guidelines for employee usage.  Really smart companies will incorporate social media activities into their own communications structure, championing information exchange among employees and potential customers and harnessing the power of that influence.

Fear –  Leadership at many larger companies and organizations came of age at a time when  brand communications where one way – outward facing.  Large brands told customers what they wanted them to know, orchestrated how and when those messages would be presented, and called it a day.  Now that communications model is crashing to the ground and many C-suite executives don’t know what to do.   Comments and messages on social media platforms are submitted for public consumption.  And when those mentions are negative or even false, many organizations don’t know what to do to handle them.  Creation of social media policy builds a framework and a context within which companies can begin to handle these sentiments.  Courageous companies will listen to the chatter and will thoughtfully consider how and when to react, turning negative comments into customer service opportunities

Frustration – Some large companies have gotten in front of the wave and are already “active” in the social media space.  They may have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, but they don’t do anything with it.  Just this week, AdAge reported that 76% of Branded Twitter accounts lie dormant.  Lack of policies, strategy and intention have hamstring many early adopters and their attempts at successful utilization of social media within their organizations and in the online community.  But a structured approach to social media, beginning with social media guidelines for internal communications and external outreach, will reduce corporate frustration.  Companies that seek to develop methods of internal communication empowered by social media can groom and grow their own corporate cheerleaders and industry evangelists, and shape organizational perception.

It has been said many times that perception in reality.  No matter what our intent, it is the perception of its receipt that is remembered.  Perhaps the teacher at the center of this latest Facebook incident did not intend for others to see or respond to her posted pictures in the way that they did.  But the reality is that, regardless of her motivations, someone complained.  She might have been helped by clear and thoughtful social media policies from her employer.  Definitely, the employer would have firmer footing to engage the teacher if there had been.

It seems here Facebook pictures are feeling more like a mug shot than anything else.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at www.socialgastronomy.com/blog. For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/rosenhaft or contact him directly at mrosenhaft@socialgastronomy.com.

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