Social Media In The Workplace – The Debate Rageth On

It’s been a long time, gentle readers, since I came across something that deserves an award for its icky, sticky, company hippy nature, its inherent stupidity and intellectual laziness and its truly horrible smug and self-satisfied tone. But today is the day – it chills my very soul to introduce this, the Stop Blocking website and it disheartens me even further to link to this, a piece entitled ‘Demolishing Barclays Communications’ Blocking Argument Point-by-Point’.

Now, for this post to make sense to you, you’re going to have to do the clickety-dickety and read the article. You may wish to have a bucket and a towel handy while you do so and also to warn anyone in the immediate vicinity that your anguished howling is nothing to be alarmed about. Unless it goes on for longer than – say – thirty minutes, in which case it may be the onset of PTSD.

In brief, this is a continuation of the battle between two diametrically opposed viewpoints – that employees in the workplace should have no access to social networks during work hours whatsoever (which I do not believe to be a workable solution to the insidious eville of social) and that employees should be free to do what they want, when they want, simply girdled with a loose set of suggestions and guidelines. Which, as a solution to the problem of social media in a corporate context (and it is a problem, mark my words) is also a nasty pile of cattle droppings. In a nutshell, it’s the Corporate Nazi vs Company Hippy debate, which I have posted about before.

Thing is, the Company Hippy arguments for social media, used here, are the same ones that have been trotted out since social media began. And they didn’t make sense then, and they don’t make sense now. On top of that, here they are dusted with the icing of  ‘research’ and ‘example’ – and we all know how easy it is to find support for an argument. Any argument. (Don’t make me give you specifics.)

Here’s just a few idiocies:

  • Apparently, all workers, regardless of status or paygrade, put in extra hours and therefore compensate for any time that they may waste using social networks. Of course they do. In the same way that they all love the company that they work for, its senior management and its brands
  • Productivity suffers if employees can’t connect to social networks at work (thanks, University of Melbourne!). Apparently use of social media ‘resets an employee’s concentration’. How DID we manage to concentrate before?
  • Because the US Department of Defense has opened its networks to social media, does not mean that LargeCorp Industries LLC (in the business of profit, not homeland security) should – it’s not a question of risk from cyber-attack, it’s a question of perceived need and value. (In any case, I would ask whether the ‘private in the field in Afghanistan’ is free to change his status willy-nilly (‘Safe behind a wall’ to ‘In a ditch with blast concussion’) or to share any sort of geographic or temporal information)
  • Company ‘confidentiality can be violated anywhere, even an elevator’. True – but your average elevator holds 12 people and Facebook holds a potentially eavesdropping audience of 450 million. Go figure
  • ‘Many employees carry smartphones – or they can (access social media) from home after work’ – again, true. But what they do on their own time is their own business – unless it contravenes company policy on how they may represent themselves as employees, or the laws of the land – in which case they get fired. In the workplace – well, the clue is in the name – ‘work’place. Not ‘fun’place or ‘do-your-own-thing’place
  • ‘If normal use of bandwidth (this refers to employee use of social media) is slowing (your) network to a crawl, get more bandwidth.’ Just go to your finance guys and ask them to approve an increase in your budget, to purchase bandwidth to allow your employees to update their Facebook statii. That’s bound to work. Job done

All of this is hopelessly Utopian – the ideals of an imaginary world where everyone is nice, contented, loyal and trustworthy. Well, here’s the wake-up call. They’re not, and you need to bear that in mind when thinking about social media use in the workplace.

The solution, however (and it’s the one point on which I vaguely coincide with Stop Blocking) is not to shut down employee access to the internet. You see, it’s the internet that is (or can be) a useful corporate tool, it’s the internet which – as much as I still think this is a sucky argument – ‘resets concentration’ – not social media. Social media is wasteful and vainglorious. The internet is (partly) full of useful information, commentary and viewpoint.  Social media is full of weak-minded individuals who honestly believe that what they do and think is of interest to others (see Twitter).

How can you do it? Some companies have a couple of open-access machines in their public areas, for employees to use when they’re on breaks and time spent on these machines is (obviously) monitored by other employees – much like smokers on smoking breaks, internet users will be kept honest by their peers. Other companies make internet access a privilege, granted to those who’ve achieved – promotion, sales targets, whatever – although this is obviously a little elitist. Others allow internet access, but block social media sites – possibly the best of the options.

What is essential, however, is a good, solid, draconian Use of Social Media Policy and an internal communication plan to make sure that no-one can claim ignorance of it. Needless to say, this Policy should outline clearly how an employee may represent the company or brand online and in social media – what is acceptable and what is not – and, most importantly, make it clear that it applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Enforce it rigorously, because there’s nothing like a public hanging to make people understand that you are – and it is – serious.

Googly I

 Been a while, blog snorkellers mine, been a while.

Frankly, this blog has turned into my foamy-mouthed rantings about the eville that is social media and, d’you know what, it’s becoming difficult to find anything new to write.

Why? Because I’m not a geeky techy, I’m a communicator. I do not hang around in the kitchen of the internet’s big social media party, discussing the tiny changes that social media keep making to themselves, nor the wholly spurious increases in fans and clicks, nor the fact that 52.673% of businesses run by hippies believe that social media will, eventually, replace God.

And unless you choose to rummage through this morass of soiled underwear, you have to accept the truth that nothing has actually changed in the year or so that I’ve been gracing the web with my musings. The evangelists are still evangelising, the fools are still fooling around, the inappropriateness is still inappropriate, the naysayers are still naysaying – but nothing has actually changed.

Social media are still what they are – and the communications and marketing community are still trying to work out how to leverage them. Anyway, today I come across this – which is a post from the Digital Brand Expressions Blog (thank you) musing on the possibility that Google may be planning to have another foray into the social media space with something that may, or may not, be called ‘Google Me’. Obviously, I think they’ve missed a trick here – ‘Googly I’ would be so much better, or Google U, which could then become Googlez Vous in French and Et Tu Google for the small Swiss community that still insists on speaking Latin.

Anyway (again), just a couple of thoughts on the back of this article:

1) It’s probably too late for choice. You’re either on Facebook, or you’re not. And if you are – well, you are (obviously) and if you’re not, I think it’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly throw your privacy away and embrace the sharing of drunken photographs simply because that nice Mr Google has provided a new medium for you to use.

2) If Facebook was going to launch a search engine, it would have done it by now. Let’s face it, a share of Google’s $23bn annual profit (revenue? not sure) is not to be sneered at. I can only think that either they can’t, or that they’ve decided it’s not worth the effort. And, simply because Facebook doesn’t make any money currently, I’m forced to believe that they haven’t the capability to create an algorithm that would approximate Google’s. (If indeed algorithm is the right expression for the magic mushroom of code that allows Google to hallucinate all the stuff that people want to view.)

So. I’d hazard that Google won’t be able to invade Facebook’s space and vice-versa. So, once again, nothing has changed.

See you in another couple of months – supposing anything actually moves on.

Kirk out.

Embrace Social Media Or Die! (Part The Third)

Oooh! Oooooh! Oooooh! (Imagine small child at back of classroom waving hand in air.)

And another thing. Yesterday, I passed comment on the flimsy gibberings of Erik Qualman, social media snake-oil salesman to the shiny-object obsessed masses, the man behind, and the author of this piece – statistics about social media that supposedly build a case for its here-to-stayness and its centrality to all that is good and clean.

Anyways, cutting a story short, something was niggling at me. I re-read my post. I remembered why it is that I’m not a social media fan. It’s not because I deny its existence (as I was once accused of doing), nor that I have anything against it per se. No – it’s simply because I’m a career communicator, and I believe that all marketing, communications and sales activity should have a measurable ROI and a demonstrable impact on the bottom line – which social media (in the context of sales, marketing and communication) does not.

So I re-examined Mr Qualman’s list with this in mind. His list of 42 points (go and check it out for yourself, you lazy blog snorkeller). I wanted to see how many of his 42 statistics, claims and exhortations actually had a bearing on the use of social media for commercial ends.

And the answer is 12. Yes, 12 out of 42 – and even those do not have a direct impact on the formulation of a commercially-focused, measurable social media strategy, aimed at delivering bottom-line impact. The other thirty are, variously, meaningless statistics, empty statements and trite irrelevancies.

How did I come across this horsesh*t in the first place? Because a contact of mine, who is slightly more forgiving of the whole social media mojambo, circulated it. Implying that quite a few people are circulating it and more than a few are using it to justify the time, resource and budget that they have convinced their employers/clients to put behind this whole box of smoke and mirrors.

I don’t have to tell you – right-thinking snorkeller that you are – how toxic this is.

Social Media – Vodafone Twit Highlights Need For Corporate Social Media Control

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – corporate use of social media is a dangerous thing, and if you are going to dip your toe, then you need a frankly medieval ‘corporate use of social media’ policy in place to ensure the wingnuts do not scupper your dinghy.

As happened earlier this month over at Vodafone, a rather large purveyor of telecommunications services to the global community. Vodafone’s on Twitter, d’you see, and although it’s only managed to garner some 9.5k followers with its 5k-odd tweets, it’s pursuing its strategy with verve.

Suddenly, last week, a tweet was tweeted suggesting that – avert your eyes, those of a sensitive disposition – “@VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo's (sic) and is going after beaver”. Well. Here’s commentary from, suggesting that Voodoofone’s Twitter account is internally compromised.

Of course, it wasn’t, and – whether you choose to believe it or not, you have to give credit to Mojambofone’s crisis management people – pocketlint posted this yesterday, recounting Jujufone’s official explanation. For those of my blog snorkellers what is hard of de clickery, the explanation is pretty much ‘a big boy did it and ran away’. Only in this case, they appear to have found the big boy, and I can only imagine that he (or she, even) is in a small room somewhere, tied to a chair, while some HR lovelies get all 16th century on his ass.

 Moral of the story? There need to be rules. Perhaps Blackmagicfone has a ‘corporate use of social media’ policy, but it sure as hell ain’t working. As I’ve postulated before, there’s always a proportion of employees – and of the general public, as it happens – terminally afflicted with Twitterette’s. This is the unholy urge to shout ‘bum!’ and ‘poo!’ in public places and at inappropriate times. Generally when confronted with a mass medium (like Twitter, or Facebook), the implications of which they do not fully understand. They do not understand that their ‘bum!’ has a potential audience of – ooooh – everyone. (Luckily, in this case, it was an immediate audience of 9.5k people – although you can still find the post, because it’s been re-tweeted and re-tweeted – whatever that means.)

Anyway, bottom line – a proper use of social media policy, with proper rules, is absolutely imperative. It won’t stop this sort of nonsense altogether, but it may make the f*ckwits think twice. I recommend really, really serious disciplinary action. Boilings in oil. Skinnings alive.

But really, the way to deal with it – folks – is NOT TO GET INVOLVED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

How many times do I have to say this?

Social Media – Think Of A Topic, Any Topic……

Today, blog snorkellers mine, we roll our eyes skywards in reaction to the latest piece of misengendered and spurious horsehit to grace the pages of the ‘industry’s bible’, the toilet-tissue-esque PRWeek. (Hello, PRWeek, hope you’re well.) This week’s issue has a story which you can find here, on the Week’s website, entitled “Comms Chiefs Predict First ‘Internet Election’ in The UK” (their inverted commas, not mine.)

All well and good, you might say, heaving a sigh of relief that the ‘bible’ has refrained from printing pictures of drunken consultants baring their bottoms out of hotel bedroom windows following yet another product launch and nine-hour lunch.

Unfortunately though, it’s neither well, nor good. Let’s face it, the next general election is not going to be an internet election, not by any stretch of the imagination, if only for the simple reason that only 59% of the UK population have internet access. The first shots in this election have already been fired and they were fired via outdoor. No, I’m not going to ignore the government’s Twitter Czar and the fact that social media and the wider web will be addenda to the main marketing agenda, but it’s not going to be an internet election. IT’S NOT.

And guess what? When you read the ‘story’ in the ‘bible’, you find that the ‘Comms Chiefs’ of the headline, who have, apparently, predicted the first ‘internet election’, have actually DONE NO SUCH THING. In fact, they could hardly be less predictory.

Once again, it’s a simple case of being so over-awed by social media, and so sucked up by the hype, as to try and shoehorn the miserable stuff into anything and everything that has even the smallest communication element.

Once and for all. The Emperor has no clothes on. Social media is not the dawn of a brave new world. It will not replace (although it may add to) more traditional and more direct comms tools. Social media does not affect everyone. Its coverage is by no means blanket. Some people don’t understand it, some people don’t like it. Not everything has to have, or needs, or requires, a social media element.

So please, don’t try to roll everything in social media in the hope that some of it will stick. And don’t make baseless claims.


Social Media Damages Brands – No Sh*t, Holmes

Now I know that this story, from Communicate Magazine’s super website, is more about social media exacerbating a crisis, rather than social media starting a crisis, but the principle holds true.

Social media, by its very nature – independent, free-thinking, anti-establishment, rapid-response, quick-to-anger, react-first-think-later and accessible by all sorts of random wingnuts – is dangerous. Everyone should have social media as part of their crisis plan – here’s my post on the subject – and they should have a rigid social media policy in place, governing what employees can and cannot do with it on company business and on company time.

In fairness, however, in the cases of KFC and Hennes, social media is not to blame.

It’s the stupid, stupid people who decided that running ads that could be misconstrued or shredding clothes rather than donating them to charity (respectively) were good ideas. And it’s the communications people who probably knew about this stuff, but didn’t have the authority, the gravitas or the balls to fulfil their role.

Which is to stand there, and in their best Alistair Campbell, shout “There is no f*cking way that you are doing that.”

Crisis Management – The Idiot’s Guide To Creating A Plan – Eurostar

Ooooooooh, ouch. Eurostar provide an object lesson for everyone in how not to do it. The reason I come to this now is because of this piece – which I have lifted from Steve Virgin’s blog (most excellent, by the way, wholly recommended) – which details Eurostar’s commercial and marketing reaction to the – well – cock-up, frankly.

It mentions their social media concerns and demonstrates that social media was not included in their crisis management plan. Oooops.

It simply isn’t something you can ignore. Be prepared – or be prepared for the consequences.

Corporate Communications – Doing God’s Work 3

Those who are regular visitors to this, The Blog That Nobody Reads, will have seen my previous posts – all (snappily, I thought), and for ease of reference, entitled ‘Doing God’s Work’ – which outline my thoughts on the public razing of the corporate reputation of Goldman Sachs which we have witnessed over the past month or so.

And all, it seems, as the result of what can only be seen as a horribly (really horribly) misguided attempt to make the bank more friendly, and its working and remuneration practices more acceptable to the common man. (That’ll be the same common man who has, over the last two years, been right royally shafted by the selfish greed and shortsightedness of – ah yes – bankers.)

Anyway, the received wisdom is that, joke or not, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, probably shouldn’t have said that he was ‘doing God’s work’. (Come to think of it, it would have been nice if Michael Sherwood, European MD, could have stopped himself saying how fond he is of big boats. But, hey.)

Anyway, if you’ve got some time, here’s something from the January issue of Vanity Fair, showing, I think, quite how far the mighty have fallen.

Yep – Goldman Sucks.

Corporate Communications – Doing God’s Work 3

More sequels than a Governator franchise. Anyway, this one’s for those committed blog snorkellers who’ve waded through my musings on the whole Goldman Sachs/Sunday Times ‘doing God’s work’ SNAFU. Earlier today, I posted links to commentary from the London Evening Standard (which I agree with), which say that Goldman’s have (and I’m paraphrasing) made the mother of all cock-ups with their attempt at public relations, and deserve the pillorying (doesn’t look right – pilloring? pillorising?) that they’re getting.

But then it struck me. (Well, I was watching TV last night, and there was an entire programme dedicated to it.) The London Evening Standard. Owned by a Russian. Ex-KGB. Is it too much to suppose that he (or those who may be backing him) might have an interest in destabilising a leading bank such as Goldman Sachs?

But, you’ll scoff, the original damning Goldman Sachs feature/interview was in The Sunday Times (of London). Yes. It was. Owned by one R Murdoch Esq. Who might also – and I don’t have to stretch my imagination too much – have an interest in destabilising the world’s economy, one bank at a time.

I think there’s more to this than meets the eye. Well, actually, for the sake of conspiracy theorists around the world, I hope there is.

Corporate Communications – Doing God’s Work 2

 Last time, on ‘Doing God’s Work’. A global investment bank – let’s call them Goldman Sachs – breaks the silence of decades and has some of their senior executives interviewed, for a feature piece, by a medium with global reach – let’s call it The Sunday Times (of London). In the course of the interview, we discover that one of the senior executives likes big boats, that all their employees are being paid obscene amounts of money (nothing wrong with that, mind) and that the ultimate boss – let’s call him Lloyd Blankfein – believes he’s ‘doing God’s work’.

The whole thing raised few issues for me. On the one hand, I was impressed that their Corporate Communications head – let’s call him Lucas van Praag – had managed to get the notoriously secretive bank to ‘go public’ (if you like). I think I understood what they were up to – the threat of governments poking their legislative noses into the affairs of the world’s money-machines needed (needs?) to be averted, so what better than to open yourself to the media and demonstrate that, behind the hype and the rumour, you’re simply a business, under the same pressures as other businesses, trying to turn an honest dollar.

On the other hand, I think they (the Corporate Communications advisors) dropped a clanger. Unfortunately – so I thought – this big financial institution didn’t come off terribly well. The big boss wasn’t terribly likeable (and who cares what he’s really like – if he’s going to do media, he needs to pretend that he’s, at the least, human), quotations from employees simply reinforced the preconceptions and, frankly, no-one needs to know that they like big boats. I think we probably assumed that, anyway.

And then the ‘doing God’s work’ quotation. Well, I assumed (and when we assume, we make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’) (now I feel ill) that this was a joke that fell flat. A throwaway comment, made by a man with not too many social skills. However, this piece, from London’s Evening Standard, tells me otherwise. (Here’s another article, again from the Standard, which showed how they tried to spin it. Oooops.)

And so to today’s lesson, dear blog snorkellers. If you are a corporate communicator, and you are parading your top bods in front of the media, make sure that they are a) trained b) on-message and c) understand that this is not the time for off-the-cuffs. If you cannot tick the boxes against these three points, then do not proceed.

As Goldman Sachs has proved – a bad result is worse than no result at all, and, in their case, may have the opposite effect to the one they were (probably) looking for. Their performance has simply given the world’s media an interest in, and an excuse for, forensically examining everything they do. And guess what? There’s lots to write about.