Social Media – Policies, Usage and Effects

The more links I follow, the more commentary I read, the more I am convinced that no-one has a scooby what this social media stuff means, looks like, does or is capable of. In addition – and I’ve been blogging about this for months now (and that’s a long time in social media) – the debate simply hasn’t moved on. The social media devotees are still accusing those who express doubt of being luddites, and the luddites are still arguing about what constitutes a robust social media policy.

(Dear Blogsnorkeller, if you are new to me and my meanderings, I am – I hope obviously – talking about use of social media in a business or commercial context. I have no views on use of social media on a personal, non-work-related basis. It’s a free world. Live and let live.)

Today, I’ve come across discussion of the difference between ‘policy’ and ‘guideline’  – which, admittedly, dates from March, and is in the comments on this post – and which then led me to what looked like a promising debate about what right a company has to dictate to its employees how they represent themselves when posting to social media. I’d have thought every right – but then it appears that some companies, in their attempts to formulate corporate policies, are actually trying to impose rules on their staff 24/7. Which does seem a little strange.

What troubled me was not necessarily the difference between ‘guideline’ and ‘policy’ – in my opinion, it’s quite clear, if you’re talking a set of rules that employees must abide by, then it’s a policy. ‘Guideline’ implies ambiguity – eg ‘Try to be authentic’ (real example) – and ambiguity is open to misinterpretation and misinterpretation leads to error.

No, what troubles me is that this debate is actually taking place – get a grip – social media is here now, we need to understand it, we need to legislate for it, we need to be prepared for a possible future where – if we let it – social media dictates how we do business. A free-for-all, in other words. And as long as we noodle around, playing semantics rather than seizing the tiger’s tail, the more of a headstart it will have and the less chance we have of being able to harness it for commercial ends.

Today I’ve also seen a piece on social media ROI – which, on the whole, I completely agree with – apart from the implication that there are some things that you can’t evaluate and shouldn’t try to, because they have intrinsic worth. Well, that what we said about PR for a long time – you can’t put a price on corporate reputation – and that’s why PR remains a hillbilly cousin to marketing. Listen up, social media strategists – you HAVE to put a value on this. You HAVE to find a way – if you really want social media to become a valued corporate promotional tool.

And, from the same source a bit on  why social media won’t save your business – only just relevant to this post – but I guess it’s about the effects of social media – or rather the effects that it won’t have unless you’ve got everything else right first. Remember, large organisations with poor customer service records or shoddy products, you cannot polish a turd. Aaaah, the more knowing might say, but you can roll it in Twitter.

And then, a really wishy-washy post on social media policy guidelines. (Well, that’s my opinion – you can decide for yourself.) And it makes me cross – going back to my starting point – to see that this feeble nonsense was posted in August this year. Have we gone nowhere? Is no-one prepared to nail colours to masts? What is going on that people are still talking in terms of employees ‘being treated as grown-ups, given guidelines and being trusted to do their jobs’, when this is so obviously dangerous, liberal, Utopian nonsense? (See my thoughts on ‘policy’, above.)

And finally, to reinforce the fact that we really are going nowhere, here’s a post that takes a good look at social media and attempts to get some understanding. I like this post, but – I’m afraid – I don’t really understand where it’s going and, well, the content isn’t new. (If you ignore these two things, mind, it’s quite reassuring.)

Thing is, we appear to be be stuck in a sort of internetty Groundhog Day. We’re just not progressing. Or maybe I’m not looking in the right places.

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