Is access to Social Media a basic human right? And how does this impact corporate social media policies?

As companies try to get their heads around this whole social media phenomenon, one of the questions that quickly bubbles to the surface is that of Access“Who in the organization should have access to the tools and processes to support social media engagement”. While this is an understandable question, I believe it misses a key subtlety about social media. Social Media is not a business tool, although it can clearly be leveraged to benefit the business, but has now become (or is becoming) a primary channel for social interaction and personal expression, and a basic human right (see articles from NYTimes and BBC).

This makes access to social media a foregone conclusion as opposed to an option, and changes the conversation to one of risk minimization and business value optimization, which is a much more interesting discussion to have anyway. And this shouldn’t scare companies, since this is not so different to where we were 20 years ago with Internet and e-mail, where organizations had similar concerns and in many cases tried to limit/control access, however this angst ended up being a complete waste of energy.

Since our employees are going to interact with social media, it’s a question of how can I most effectively protect myself and my employee, and at the same time maximize the overall benefits of social media engagement to both! It’s about putting in place tools, processes, and policies to empower a “listening enterprise” that is agile, able to respond in real time to on-line dialog, can anticipate our customer’s needs, and pro-actively shape the market. Its less Who? and more What?

  • What Use Cases allow social media engagement to deliver greatest benefit to the business?
  • What Roles within the organization are required to execute these Use Cases?
  • What processes & tooling are required to support these activities across the business?
  • What policies are needed to protect the organization (and the employee) in social media engagement.
  • What skills & education are required to realize this business transformation?

Employees will continue to grow their social media interactions over the coming years — for social learning, reputation building, problem solving, relationship building, etc. — whether the enterprise likes it or not. What I believe the enterprise needs to do is to put into the hands of their employees the tools — embedded with processes, policies, protections, learning, knowledge, and recommendations — that will minimize risk and maximize reward for both the enterprise and the employee.

FYI: If you are interested in this topic, you might want to check out a Storify article from @shelholtz entitled “Employee access to social media“.

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