Monday, June 01, 2009

social media: can you swim & stay dry?

 That seems to be the hope in many private- and public-sector workplaces, according to two recent surveys that show companies and government agencies are still way behind their customers and constituents when it comes to using social media as a communications tool. The big barriers? Lack of knowledge, no policy guidelines, or such restrictive policies that these tools can't be used at work--the equivalent of posting a "no swimming" sign when everyone else is in the pool.

Let's start in the public sector, where a survey of corporate and government communicators by Ragan Communications and PollStream found that turf battles between IT and communications are holding up progress (reported by 45 percent of the government communicators) and a whopping 70 percent of communicators at government agencies say they can’t access social media at work. (You'll need a subscription to read the link above). This, despite the federal government's continuing--and successful--efforts to negotiate terms of service that will allow federal agencies to use Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other social media sites.

Deloitte's 2009 Ethics and Workplace Survey found a somewhat hopeful picture--14 percent of CEOs have Twitter profiles and 31 percent are on Facebook, for example. But the size of the potential pool for social media use comes clear in these data: 55 percent of executives say their companies don’t officially use social networks, and 22% said their companies would like to use social networking tools, but haven’t yet figured out how to do so. The Deloitte surey also probes employee/employer views on whether a policy would change what employees say about the company online and whether social media policy should be a boardroom issue.

The downside of all this: When you fail to follow your audience into the pool, you're missing myriad opportunities to engage your constituents--and creating opportunities for others to do so. For agencies in a federal system, it also creates an uneven level of taxpayer service, since I can access some agencies readily in social media, but not others. At some point, that's a performance issue for the entire system.

This uneven pool landscape may be why my "get your toes wet in the new-media pool" sessions, a combination of orientation and brainstorming, are still in demand in the public and private sectors. Until you get all the players in the room--from naysayers to early adopters--you won't be able to come up with a comprehensive approach that actually moves forward. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to learn about holding a session customized to your business needs. Where's your organization in this mix? Leave a comment and feel free to share your successes or barriers--and check out similar feedback in the related posts.

Related posts:

When federal agencies limit social media use

Get your toes wet in the new-media pool orientation sessions

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