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Ban Facebook at work, just don’t ban social

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Ban Facebook at work, just don’t ban social

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Should social media be banned at work?  It’s a question that still resonates, even though social media is such a large part of our lives.  I provided some thoughts on the topic last year, and again for Professional Manager magazine earlier this year.

Now regular readers of my blog will know that I’m a staunch advocate of the power of being social for a vast range of organisational issues.  Yet news today that 91 companies in Australia are set to ban access to social media at work suggests that many organisations still struggle with this issue.

You know what, I think for many organisations there probably is good reason to ban Facebook.  What you shouldn’t be looking to ban however is the social behaviours that see your employees communicating more effectively with each other.  You shouldn’t be looking to ban the sort of social behaviours that sees staff communicating and listening to what your customers are saying about you online.  You shouldn’t be sewing the seeds in the minds of executives that there is nothing for them to learn in the social world.

How can you tell the difference?

It seems that a central part of the problem is that many organisations still don’t understand what it is they want to get out of social media.  If you don’t have that objective in mind then it becomes very hard to measure what you’re doing, and therefore very hard to tell if what you’re doing is working or not.  There are two steps you can’t avoid if you’re going to take a grown up approach to social media.

1. How does social help you achieve your objectives

So, the first thing you need to do is think about this strategically.  It’s no good following fashion and joining every social network that earns a mention on Mashable.  That’s akin to the tail wagging the dog.  Instead, look at the core objectives for your organisation and work back from there.  How can using social media, either internally or externally, help you to achieve those goals.

I don’t think lassez faire works with social media.  You need to manage it strategically and have a clear plan for what you want to achieve.  So it may be that Facebook is not something that can help you, in which case you should be encouraging people to apply their efforts in a more productive area.  Always keep the end in mind.

2. How can you measure success?

A major part of this focus is that you need to be able to measure what it is you’re doing.  Social ROI is almost as common a topic as whether it should be allowed at all.  If it’s going to be taken seriously then it needs to be something you can measure.  Here’s how.

You have your objective identified.  You also have a plan for how social media can help achieve that objective.  You then need to find a way of measuring that.  Whether it’s new sales, product ideas or customer service success, it should be something you can measure.

That forms your social ROI.  You then need to assign a value to that, so you can determine the financial ROI.  Sales are easy, but you should be able to figure out how much a new product is worth, or how much you save by crowdsourcing innovation.  Likewise with customer service, you can measure how much you save by having customers solving each others problems.  This will give you a good idea of whether using social is working for you or not.

Strategy rather than tactics

You’ll notice that this post has taken a holistic look at how you ensure your social media work is in the right direction.  If you don’t get this part right then all the tactical mastery in the world is unlikely to help you.  So before you think about whether to allow social media or not, or which networks you have to be on, think first about how social can help you achieve your goals, and how you can measure that progress.  Everything that comes after that will be much easier as a result.


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