Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Danger of Implementing 'Smart Blogging' Regulations

I'm all for organisational implementation of intelligent social media regulations. By establishing groundrules for employee-public engagement, the organisation can ensure that basic restrictions are in place to avoid potentially negative repercussions resulting from a very public lapse in judgement from the workforce. Simple restrictions concerning language and content are not designed to stifle employee creativity, but rather to ensure that brand equity is not damaged as a result of either intentional or unintentional employee negligence. Last week, my thoughts on the subject were challenged though whilst reading Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's 'Naked Conversations'.

A Question of Interpretation
According to Scoble and Israel, the problem with smart blogging practices revolves around interpretation. Unless clearly defined, a regulation intepreted by one employee will almost certainly be interpreted somewhat differently by another. Similarly, differences in interpretation can make it difficult for regulations to be adequately enforced. The resultant confusion may deter a proportion of the workforce from representing the brand online; particularly when coupled with fear of organisational reprisal. For those employees still enthused about engaging with the customer online, confusion of what constitutes acceptable online practices may cause the resultant content to develop a manufactured feel. This content is hardly beneficial for the organisation.

Encouraging Employee Participation
Herein lies the difficulty for many an organisation. Whilst strict social media engagement regulations are likely to deter employee participation, as identified above ambiguous regulations are likely to result in an equivalent outcome. It is the responsibility of the organisation to identify appropriate middle ground for employee participation in the social media. Although decisions concerning certain regulations will be obvious, for example with regards to language allowances and trade secrets, other areas will be significantly more up for discussion. For example, to what extent will the organisation empower the workforce to challenge the thoughts and opinions of customers online? It is only through careful consideration of each of these areas that an appropriate strategy will be crafted.

One Step at a Time
Unfortunately there is no single standardised social media strategy. As such, organisations really need to employ common sense when establishing their guidelines for employee engagement. Clearly it would be impossible for each and every engagement to be monitored; highlighting the need for appropriate guidance from the outset. The best advice that I can give would be to examine the workforce and to develop a strategy both with and around them. By working together with the workforce closely, potential areas of difficulty can be preemptively identified and addressed. Whilst this cannot guarantee the avoidance of every challenge to the brand equity, it will almost certainly cause the number of occurences thereof to diminish.

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