I had an interesting conversation with a client three weeks ago. They have been trying to get the board to let them open the doors to social for the last 9 months. Each month its on the agenda, each month it gets blocked. The reason for the block was that they couldn’t agree on the scope of the policy or the strategy.
Marketing, HR, Operations were all stuck on the finer detail, in particular the control issue. The business needed to be social. There was a kind of recognition that it was a good idea but they couldnt move on from the first stage.
Pondering the problem, we looked at the existing communications policy, and in turn, their marketing and communications strategy. We added about 10 words to incorporate social media specifically.
The strategy is still to source the best candidates in the quickest possible time, we’ve just opened up a few extra channels and suggested removing the IT blocks on Facebook and Twitter.
Following the update, the resulting Board conversation to get this agreed took about three minutes and it was passed, signed off and agreed without even an eyebrow being raised.
The reality and lesson from this is one I have raised in the past many times, and learnt from bad experience:
If you concentrate on social media as a “special” case with different rules, you will usually get more opposition than support from those who either don’t understand it or have a real fear.
People are comfortable adding to the way they do things, they are much less comfortable changing the way they do things.
Ultimately, Senior Managers are interested in projected results, and less in the detail. They recognise things like keeping up or being ahead of the competition, additional revenue streams, things like that. They don’t recognise your need to be on twitter, Facebook or any of the channels.
They are concerned about legislation and protecting the company from prosecution, protecting brand reputation and confidentiality. They were no less concerned about this yesterday before you mentioned social media. They already have policies in place that cover this, that are included in employment contracts. By creating new, special policies you create fear. Nothing has changed as to what is allowed and what isn’t, just add a few words to extend to social media. The policies are still the same.
They are concerned about losing control of the message. They are not quite sure what that message is, but they dont want to lose it. Nothing has changed over the message other than how it is delivered.
They are concerned that all staff are productive and will measure them by results. This hasn’t changed because you have added in social media. Stick to results based agreements, rather than the methods of achieving them. Start talking Facebook and Twitter, and you create fear that they are going to waste time playing. Agree the results needed, you worry about the how.
As part of your integration plan, simply add social media to your skills training, and update those in the company that need to learn how things are done. Training and education, mentoring and developing skills, while reminding people of how the existing policies incorporate the new channels, proves far more motivational and effective than laying down new regulations and guidelines. Remember, if someone can get sacked for a breach, it’s not a guideline, it’s a law!
The best way to get things agreed and done is to look to integration not implementation, with no special policy or strategy. The lawyers and consultants will say you are wrong, but what is it they get paid for again? Don’t sell social as SPECIAL, bring it in and astound them!
What difficulties have you had getting the green light on social media? Does your communications policy really give you what you need?
Be ambassadors for social by not making it special,