Sounds like an oxymoron, but this debate has been raging since the words social media popped into the ether. “Don’t tell people anything or someone will get you” sounds like the old story of the boogeyman in your closet. There of course is a legitimate concern about giving details of your private life away so people can steal things or harm you. But how about in the business world?
If I tweet the address and phone number of my business, that is probably a good thing. If someone blogs about the design process of a product and engages customers to improve that product, that is a good thing. If someone posts a spreadsheet with employee salaries to a community forum, that’s very bad.
So how do businesses protect themselves and still let people use these new tools of commerce? Use the same policies used for other communications. Some companies, like IBM, have developed Social Computing guidelines as an extension of their business conduct or ethics policies. Some have said that social media is another form of communication and existing policies cover that.
Rather than sticking your head in the sand, you need to tackle this head on. Teens and college kids embrace social media and when they get into the workforce they want to continue to use these tools. If you don’t have a policy that addresses these new tools (some aren’t that new, by the way), develop one. If you don’t, your employees will use the tools anyway. I think it’s better to embrace the new ways of doing business, treat people like adults and move business forward.
What do you think?
photo credits Jermaine Justice