Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to speak with my new friend Paul McFarlane at HRATV. Our presentation was an Agree/Disagree style, where we discussed social media in human resources and employee relations. Paul, being a very skilled attorney, had as much to say about social media as I did.

In real life, Paul and I probably agree much more than we disagree, but it was fun to poke holes in each others theories and show our audience the depth of consideration that social media in the workplace requires.

What surprised me was how many of the companies represented still do not use social media in any way. Some of their staff is using it as individuals, but it seemed (by my very unscientific show of hands poll) that few firms have policies and practices in place.

As I mulled this over, I asked my communications friends online if resistance to social media was still an issue at the corporate level. My friend Colleen Steinman had a great response:

I’ve worked with folks who are deathly afraid of social media and will trot out every single incident of people who have been “Dooced” (although they don’t use that term). 

There are some very real legal reasons not to use it either, mostly having to do with public records requests, open governance rules, and similiar issues. Case law has not been established for many financial institutions or for political campaign postings requirements. These concerns are very real, although I think they can be addressed with some good policy decisions and case law will follow. Based on my experiences in Florida where the Sunshine Laws were interpreted by the previous attorney general to include all social media posts. That meant we (state government PIOs) had to be able to keep — indefinitely — all posts, all replies, all comments and all retweets, along with date and time issued and by whom. At any point, we had to be able to provide anyone who asked for all posts/tweets/comments on specific topics or by date.

Colleen and I share a background in government affairs, so our viewpoint in that area is similar. The regulations and potential legal ramifications are huge and I understand why public organizations are proceeding with caution.

What I do not understand is why private companies are still hesitating. If you have insights, I would love to hear them.



PS. For now, I’ll share my Jules Rules for Social Media in the workplace, but am looking forward to feedback.

1.  HR can and should work with communications to lead the charge to set the social media “rules of engagement” within organizations.
2.  HR can and should work with communications to teach the C-suite how to lead enterprise social media engagement for their organizations.
3.  HR can and should work with communications lead the charge on addressing potential landmines that organizations need to be aware of when it comes to social media.
4.  HR can and should work be leaders in understanding how this communications revolution affects the workplace and the work of HR professionals.

4 thoughts on “Social Media: “The Balancing Act”

  1. Welcome back, Jules! (not that you’d gone anywhere, but still…)

    I’d argue ignorance as a major impediment to a full-on embrace of social media as an integral component of an organization’s communications strategy. If laypeople, for example, are STILL asking me about Twitter’s efficacy (“What’s Twitter for, anyway” is a frequent question), it’s a sure bet c-suiters and their ilk are that much further behind the times. Indeed, it’s their position atop their respective organizations that works to insulate them from their potential client bases’ predilections and peccadilloes.

    Additionally, folks at the top are accustomed to leading rather than following trends. If they didn’t think of it, it’s probably not worth their time. This isn’t an indictment of EVERY c-suiter and/or organizational leader, but it’s an issue.

    Further, folks like us who work as professional communicators need to do a better job bottom-lining the advantages of embracing social media. You’ve mentioned avoiding highlighting new media at the expense of more traditional forms of communication. It’s all about integration, tracking the data to determine their effectiveness and taking those lessons learned to refine those strategies. This often requires a significant cultural shift, something we communicators have seen organizations reluctant to embrace under the best circumstances.

    Viva le social media (and integrated marketing communications).

    1. I understand, I am blogging less, so thank you for noticing that I was “gone” for a bit. I like the new battle cry, by the way: Viva le social media!

      With the HR group I was surprised, as I would think HR would be right behind PR in embracing, implementing and utilizing social media. You know what they say about assuming it, but that’s what I did.

      Thanks for your ongoing support! All the best,

  2. Jules – yet another insightful post from the ‘Social Media Babe in Boise’!

    I’ve worked for both kinds of orgs – public and private – and SM can work with both, if there is any appetite to reach out and talk to your respective public.

    Two things to be aware of:
    1> if you’re org is intent on doing SM, work with a SM company with a great business rigour; you will never sell this idea to the C-suite without good sound marketing/communications principles. My own CEO, steeped in CPG tradition, has recently ‘seen the light’ when it comes to SM and is excited to explore its opportunities in connecting communities. But this wasn’t without showing him the research and tight plan that surrounded it.

    2> Jr employees and interns need to be reminded constantly that everything they post/tweet is reflective not only of them but also of the org they work for. You would think this notion would have sunk in by now…but no. In my own org, we find examples of this constantly – despite draconian reminders.

    1. “Good, sound marketing/communications principles” – that is music to my ears! I find it odd that people – especially the young-ins, do not understand how vital professionalism is online. Be passionate and be yourself, but only so much as you would be in front of your boss.

      Thanks for being here, Elissa. Always a pleasure to interact with you.
      ~ Jules

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