A ‘Must Read’ for Companies Restricting Staff Access to Social Media

Social Media RestrictionsWe have been around the Internet scene long enough to remember trying to encourage companies to ‘get connected’ and to start using e-mail. The response of many was:

1. ‘We will never use email. Business is built on personal relationships and you lose that doing it electronically’. As recently as 1996/97 probably fewer than 10% of companies in this country were ‘connected’. In 2011, we still start our ‘Social Media Workshops’ by asking the audience ‘how many of you use e-mail’? The second question is ‘how many of you think that was a stupid question to ask’? Of course we all use e-mail.

2. In terms of providing staff access to the Internet, there was often a collective look of horror. ‘If we do that, they will just waste their time on football fanzine web sites etc’. Our response was that you can learn a lot about business by getting involved in these sites 🙂 (even more true today).

While we have made great progress over the last decade or so in our use of the web for business, unfortunately many of the old attitudes still prevail. It never fails to amaze me how many companies and organisations we visit (especially in the public sector) who heavily restrict staff access to social media sites (facebook, youtube etc). The reason given is the same as in 1996 – ‘give staff access to facebook and they will waste time talking to their friends, productivity will decline etc’.

Wake up and smell the coffee please!

In answering these concerns, we always point people to Don Tapscott’s excellent book ‘Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World’ Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World

The core argument of the book is that the social networking skills of the ‘Net Generation’ (those who have grown up with digital media and don’t know life without the Internet) are exactly the type of skills that businesses need in a constantly online world. Rather than ‘banning’ social media access, senior management should leverage the social networking skills of staff for building strong 1-to-1 customer relationships.

It was with great pleasure therefore that I stumbled across a recent article on the 1to1Media site entitled ‘How to “Socialize” Social Customer Engagement Skills’

xerox social mediaThe core argument of the article is that the growth in customer service via social channels requires an organizational culture shift and new skill sets that will help employees to cultivate customer engagement in the social sphere. It then discusses the case of Xerox (a $15.7 billion company) who ‘recruited the natives’ for this purpose. Essentially the company went out and found the 25 most social media savvy people in the organization. They were then given high level executive support and a ‘Charter’ for activating the power of social media for the company. This is similar, in many ways, to the New Jersey Devil’s example quoted in a recent post on this site.

The justification for doing this was that these 25 people understood what social media is all about. They also understood Xerox’s markets, offerings, and culture.

To the present authors, this is a ‘no brainer’ and certainly worth (photo)copying 🙂

Worthwhile reading the full article.

As usual, comments and feedback very welcome. Do you know of other companies/organisations who have ‘byte the bullet’. Who are the ones that just don’t get it?

Take care

Jim H

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8 Responses to A ‘Must Read’ for Companies Restricting Staff Access to Social Media

  1. I have experience of developing sites in the construction trade and I would compare the majority of companies attitude to social media as hostile. Not are they only against letting their staff loose on SM sites but they don’t seem to be able to grasp the positive impact SM can have on their client relationship.
    Most of this attitude I attribute to generational thinking as most senior management and owners of these companies are 45yrs + and are still weary if information technologies in general. Most of the companies I have done work for are simply not prepared to spend either time or money on implementing a social media strategy.
    I have personally told them that if they don’t embrace these new communication technologies that a younger generation of upcoming businessmen will basically take their work away from them and their busineses will suffer.

  2. Thanks William. Agree totally with what you are saying and yes there is a generational issue here – no doubt. But you either ‘get it’ or you don’t and i know that you do. There are people over 45 who ‘get it’ 🙂

    Take care

    Jim H

  3. Pete C says:

    Agree with the positives etc though in my experience both in public & private sectors one of the main restriction after management “they’ll spend all day on it” etc is server capacity. I know where I work at present it is often stated the reason why x, y,z is blocked. (Even video’s on the news on BBC are blocked.)

    (All staff have access to the net and like most places only for work related things and clock out if it’s for personal things.)

    • Thanks Pete. An interesting take on this. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further about your own place of work as i know nothing about the local situation. However, i have heard the ‘limited server capacity’ argument before and while it may be valid in some circumstances I cant help wondering whether it is more of a senior management excuse for doing nothing or ‘fear of entering into the unknown.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – much appreciated.

      Take care

      Jim H

  4. Tony Byatt says:

    Excellent article Jim with some powerful stats. I wish GCC education would take notice. I spend a lot of time co verging YouTube films articles etc for the pupils. Sims things like Marys Meals videos showing work in 3rd world countries or allowing pupils visual witness to poverty are “access denied”. Access to YouTube and twitter us a total NO. Very frustrating.
    Good article which gives me some nice stats to offer balance to support open media.

  5. Tony – thanks for taking the time to comment.

    To be perfectly honest, i get quite angry when i hear stories like this. Used properly, social media can be such a powerful education tool. Youtube, as you know, has some great material on it regardless of topic. It also has the advantage of making education more fun and interesting for our young people and hopefully better engage some who have opted out. Yet the door is shut on using social media for education purposes. As i said in the article, time for some to wake up and smell the coffee.

    Have they given any reason for blocking access? Guess its because we cant trust our young people? despite the fact that most/many pupils will have unrestricted access at home – crazy!!!!!!

    I do some work with GCC so please do let me know if you think i can be of any help at all in trying to change mindsets.

    Great that you are using youtube in this way and i wish you well – hopefully access will open up for you.

    Just before retiring from Strathclyde University last June i was presented with an award as the ‘Most Innovative Lecturer’ in the University – an award voted on by the students themselves. I mention this not through ego but because it shows that the fundamentals of education are changing – young people want to learn in different ways compared to even a few years go. The ‘sage on the stage’ approach to teaching (i.e. you, me broadcasting education is no longer the best way to educate our young people). Basically all i done was to ‘crowdsource’ the content of my course from the students themselves using social media. I set up a very simple and easy to use e-learning community for them and asked them to post interesting social media videos from youtube; references to good blog articles, online research etc. With a class of over 130 students we ended up with a volume and quality of online information way in excess of what i could have done on my own. So the award should not really have been presented to me. It was an award for the whole class, voted by the class for the class. Rather than being a ‘sage on the stage’, i became a facilitator of crowdsourced knowledge transfer.

    Sorry to harp on, but like you, this is something close to my heart. Those who block access to social media are having a major negative impact on the education of our young people. Smell the coffee guys.

    Take care and thanks for taking the time to comment

    Jim H

  6. Anne Jackson says:

    Thanks Jim, this is a fascinating and, for me, very pertinent post. I have recently come to realise that I can do much more to develop my professional profile using social media than I have been doing. However, my firm doesn’t engage in social media at all, so it’s not as effective as it could be because my twitter feed and LinkedIn page bear no relevance to what’s on my company’s website. I am intending to raise it with management and question why we’re not using these powerful tools more and make positive suggestions as to how it could benefit us. Unfortunately I expect a lot of resistance, especially from IT and marketing around security and controlling content in particular.

  7. Good luck with that Anne. Please do let us know if we can be of any assistance in changing mindsets – we deliver a very powerful message 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment. Take care Jim H

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