Tag Archives: brianoberkirk

the organizational social media policy

More organizations are making the move into social media, either by starting a CEO blog, a customer Facebook group, or just by allowing employees to blog openly about their work lives.

As a result, more organizations are finding it necessary to draft a social media policy, or at least a set of principles, meant to guide employees’ behavior online.

Beth Kanter recently put out a call for examples of social media guidelines from nonprofits, starting with the example of the Easter Seals’ blogging policy.

A few readers chimed in with some good examples from the enterprise sector (for instance, IBM, Opera, and Sun all have blogging policies, which were linked to via Twitter by Christine Kreutz).

In a follow-up post, Beth relates an anonymous tale of a corporate social media policy:

In truth, the policy… is quite vague. It goes on for a while but really just says, “Use common sense and please don’t say stupid stuff. In fact, we’d love it if you told your personal institutional story in a constructive way.

I think that’s what most blogging/social media policies really boil down to.

It seems like executives (and nonprofit boards) are primarily concerned about three things:

  1. Employees will say bad things about the organization (sponsors, vendors, customers, etc.);
  2. Customers/constituents will say bad things about the organization (sponsors, staff, vendors, etc.);
  3. Employees will tell secrets.

It’s been said that companies would do well to remember that they have to trust their employees on these issues every day already — every time they talk to a customer, deal with a member, gab with a vendor, or work with a sponsor, you are trusting them to represent you and your brand responsibly, with discretion and integrity.

If you haven’t hired people you can trust to behave like responsible adults, then there is a deeper problem.

Of course, by “secrets” we can also be talking about “knowledge” — especially if your primary product is ideas and analysis. How much should smart, responsible bloggers share of their smart, responsible (and valuable) thinking?

This line of thought reminded me of this recent post from David Deal of Avenue A|Razorfish, a reaction to George Colony‘s recent talk on corporate blogging.

Colony seems concerned, understandably, about the wisdom of giving away too much of his company‘s bread-and-butter, which is insight, analysis, and forecasting. Do bloggers like Jeremiah Owyang give away the farm by blogging so prolifically on his topics of expertise?

Not hardly, David says:

I think the blogger-as-superstar-brand is good for any company — but especially Forrester, JupiterResearch, Gartner, IDC, and other organizations that rely on ideas as currency. Your employees already are your brand whether you realize it or not.

The problem with this fear of giving away the farm, this anxiety that every bit of our product needs to be paid for, is that it ignores the way that social media works. Social media works around relationships (believe it or not), not transactions.

Yes, most marketers think they have “relationships” with their customers, but they don’t, not really. They are really going right for the sale, and they aren’t really listening at all.

As Brian Oberkirk said today:

They go right for the transaction. It’s like: Hi, there, I’m…hey, is that your hand in my pocket?

I think I speak for a lot of us when I say “Please get your hands out of our pockets. We’ll call you when we need you.”

The economy in most social networks is just different from the more typical, everyday, transactional business model. Online, in social media, you give a little (sometimes a lot) to get more. Sometimes a lot more.

Ignore this at your peril.

state of the debate: build or join

Brian Oberkirk’s recently posted advice to brands considering launching their own social networks (in short: don’t) has made the rounds in the nonprofit technology blogosphere, mostly thanks to the incredibly useful nptech tag (add this to your RSS feed now if you want to follow other practitioners and thinkers in this field).

It’s another volley in the ongoing debate over brands (companies, organizations, nonprofits, membership groups, etc.) building their own versus joining an existing social network.

I weighed in on this topic (twice) back in November, when I suggested that it depends on what your organization’s most pressing goals are, but that a good starting strategy for many groups would be to test the waters of existing social networks by trying to achieve one or two simple, quantifiable goals. Then you can decide from there how to proceed.

I even created a couple of decision trees (with help from Beth Kanter and Kevin Gamble) to help think through this decision.

Jeremiah Owyang delves deeply into this question on his blog, most recently in the form of an audio podcast in which he debates the question with colleagues Ted Shelton and Chris Heuer, both of The Conversation Group, and Brian Oberkirk.

Beth Kanter also recently touched on this question of Build or Join in her recent interview with Jonathan Coleman, Associate Director of Digital Marketing for The Nature Conservancy. Jonathan says:

…another principle strategy of ours {is} connecting with people where they are rather than making {them} find us. Like many organizations, we used to be under the false impression that “if you build it, they will come.” But nowadays, we’ve come to think different about how we conduct outreach. Rather than force people to come to our site and remember another username and password, we’re happy to find them where they’re already engaged and introduce them to the Conservancy in venues of their choice.

Just like with any venture into new technology, nonprofits need to think carefully about what resources they have available to dedicate to implementing a social networking strategy. Whether you build or join, it’s a commitment to maintaining a meaningful presence in your online community. The rewards can be great, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that it won’t take time, money, and care.

Fortunately, there are some very smart people out there who can help. I’ve linked to several of them in this post — who else has something compelling to say on the subject these days? What’s your latest thinking on the subject?