Monday, March 4, 2013

Social Risk?

In the health care industry we talk about risk a lot. Whether it has to do with patient safety, managing potential problems, or dealing with information technology threats, risk is a part of life. We don't have a corner on the term though, every business large or small has to deal with it.

But is going social a risk?

Nothing New
Much is written about the need for social media policies, guidelines, controls, and messaging in the corporate world. I think these are good ideas. Leaders and front line employees both need to understand the rules so they can do their work productively and appropriately. But is going social truly a new risk; or, is it simply the same risk we've always had in a more sleek package?

Know Your Stuff
One of the ongoing challenges when going social in any organization is the senior leadership's complete and total unwillingness to use and understand social tools. Far too often the nervous laughter and jokes accompany a question and raised eyebrow when social tools are being put to use in the workplace. What is also missed in that moment is that the social tools being used are building the brand...not tearing it down.

"If you don't use the tools you won't understand. How in the world can anyone lead when they don't know what they're talking about?"

Perhaps I've set my expectations too high? Maybe I fell in to the trap of believing that because one billion people use facebook and other social tools that it might be a good idea to use them myself? Or it could just be that I have have a classic case of optimism bias? Regardless of the answer, I'm not convinced that going social presents anything so scary that organziations should consider not moving ahead.

How About You
Where do you fall on the social-is-a-risk continuum? Are you scurrying around your office trying to make sure you control every single tweet and post? Or, are you looking around your organization seeing hundreds and hundreds of potential brand ambassadors?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit


  1. Social media can be very useful in many ways and people should be encouraged to use it, but it is extremely important to use a filter (personal judgement) and think twice before posting anything. Some things are best not shared.

    1. Great point Howard. Good judgement is essential!

  2. Jay, I love this post!

    I think that the risk is similar to what has always been there. But the difference is that the feedback from the "audience" can now be seen by all, very quickly. I believe that is the "scary" part for most people.

    In the "old days" if we put out content, we couldn't hear what people really had to say about it...not right away, anyhow. So you could just pretend that everyone liked it. But people don't like it, you will know right away.

    But therein lies the opportunity, in my opinion. It's what we used to call in the hospitality industry "service recovery". Not everyone is going to like what you have to say or do...they may have a difference in opinion. But that is a perfect time to "engage" your customer/audience. It's a chance to really "wow" them and turn them into your "ally".

    Finally, as you mentioned, the biggest opportunity is all the potential "brand "ambassadors". If you have the right people in your organization - The Ace's in their Places - then you can make your brand and your organization extremely strong.

    1. Great stuff Tim. The real-time impact of social is a new obstacle for many organizations (and leaders)! Leveraging the power of social without being paralyzed by fear is what the progressive (and successful) companies have figured out.

  3. Jay, very thought provoking post. I especially like Tim's comment about educating your internal team to become 'brand ambassadors' and would add that showing love to those who follow you and defend or endorse your company is well worth it, too. One of the most interesting comments we got from our panel this morning at USF St Pete's Bayside Business Forum (we missed you!) was not to assume anything with your employees. Don't assume that they don't know that something they post on FB or twitter can be viewed negatively by their employer or be seen by anyone. Just basic awareness is often lacking, believe it or not. Among the solutions proposed to try and encourage responsible behavior vs. engaging in the risky business of disciplining or terminating someone for irresponsible or embarrassing behavior was to regularly talk with your team about the great advantages of social media to their own personal brand. So teaching people how to protect themselves from their own bad behavior is often good enough to prevent them from doing something that might embarrass their employer in the first place.