Social Media Viability

The benefits of social media.
By Elliot Clark

In this issue we talk about social media liability.  In social media, I am admittedly late to the party.  I am a user of LinkedIn and have about 300 or so connections, which means that I have six degrees of separation from everyone on Earth.  As a former search consultant, I never had a problem networking to anyone I needed to engage in the pre-cyber world, but now I can do so in seconds, fiber-optically.   I have seen the benefit of LinkedIn, but I do not have a Facebook page.  I have questioned whether Twitter will endure, as a 140-character platform, which has great limitations as a communications tool.  But I am not really old media, per se, as I am willing to try new things.  We have radically transformed since I became CEO four years ago, for example.  However, last week, I was caught in the eye of a Twitter storm.  And, it changed my views on everything. 
We see “killer apps” come in generations.  E-mail was the killer app of the 1980s, and search engine technology (Googling) was the killer app of the 1990s, and short message service (SMS) has been the killer app of the last 10 years.  So, while people might talk about the next great thing, it might take awhile for it to catch on and really transform communication. Some things just fizzle out.  (Does anyone remember “twx” messaging?  I didn’t think so.)
So while we all must think about the potential cost of putting sensitive information out on the web, or trash talking a co-worker or supervisor, we need to consider the positive aspects of this kind of communication.  We have seen some fine examples of the negative in the recent WikiLeaks scandals.  We have seen employees denied jobs or terminated for postings, etc.  
So, here’s something positively positive. I was at our HR software event, the HR Demo Show, December 8-9 in Las Vegas.  It was very successful, and we have scheduled the next for May 24-25, 2011 in Las Vegas, part of a group of events called the HRO Today Forums.  Part of the reason the event was so successful was the Twitter activity of the analysts, bloggers, and thought leaders who attended (and even some who didn’t).  I had set up a Twitter account to take part in the tweeting activity at our HRO Summit Europe event in Amsterdam.  I was somewhat skeptical at that event, but there was some activity.
At the HR Demo Show, there was the aforementioned Twitter storm.  
The “tweeters” were able to communicate between the various rooms, and people who were not attending began to join the conversations and retweet the comments. Soon, a virtual community of thousands was following the discussions about the software presentations, features, and functionalities, plus the TekTonic awards presentations and a host of other topics.  The attendees were even tweeting between presentation rooms to communicate with those who could not be in all the presentations, as there were multiple displays at any one time.   There were so many that the dashboards were filling up on screen as they were reloaded. I started to recognize the power of the platform in a way others had already figured out, and realized I was, in fact, late to the party.  As a fledgling tweeter, I had trouble staying to the 140-character limit and received the message, “You have to be more clever.”  How appropriate.  How prophetic.
LinkedIn is one-to-one, Facebook is one-too-many and Twitter is SMS-to-everyone.  I got it.
I spent time with the chief marketing officer of HP recently.  They launched their new brand by asking all 300,000 employees worldwide to push it out the same day on their own Facebook pages, creating tens of millions of impressions.  For HR, we see so many companies managing employee communication through Facebook sites by communicating corporate culture, updating events, sending out information, providing links, or hosting chat functionality that it has become a valuable tool that will not go away. 
The benefit of being able to instantly reach the employee base far outweighs the risk of a potential liability.  We need to manage the exception, not run away from the rule.  Managing the risk is part of what HR does for all the line management, so this must be done for social media exposures as well.  As for me, you can follow me on 
Elliot Clark is the CEO of SharedXpertise.

Tags: Consultants & Advisors, HRO Today Global, Professional Contribution

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