Social Networking and Accountability

Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others are quickly becoming mainstays in the world of corporate communication. These days, it’s not uncommon – in fact, it’s quite ordinary – to “tweet” a colleague or business contact, post on a client’s Facebook “wall,” or send a professional status update through a LinkedIn network.

However, as easy, efficient, and FUN as it is to use these social media tools at work and for work purposes, there’s an aspect to it all that some organizations and employees are failing to take into consideration: accountability.

Everything that an organization or employee sends through the social networking sphere is potentially going to become a matter of public record. And this includes so-called “private communications” that aren’t really that private at all. All it takes is a jaded (or just careless) recipient, a bored hacker or, in some cases, a court order for a comment, statement or any other communication to become public, and its sender — and his or her organization – to be held accountable.

My advice on this is simple: remind employees at all levels not to send anything through social media sites/networks that they wouldn’t want appearing on the front page of the newspaper.

Now, that may seem dramatic – but that’s the point! You want to ensure that your employees realize that social networking tools are, despite their informal nature, channels for sending and receiving organizational communications.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t wish a client a happy birthday on Twitter, or that you can’t post pictures of your newborn on a business Facebook wall, or that you can’t tell your LinkedIn network that you hope the Leafs win a game every now and then (sigh…). Not everything sent through social networks “at work” needs to fall in the narrow definition of “corporate communication.”

It simply means that employees shouldn’t forget that, fundamentally and ultimately, the protocols for using social networking tools used at work or in a work context (i.e. mobile professionals, working from home, etc.) must be, frankly, held to a higher standard.

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