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Written by Jeanne C. Meister & Karie Willyerd
Sunday, 10 January 2010 15:43
Are you considering whether your company should use social media? Before you decide to encourage your key executives to blog, or start looking at private social networking platforms, consider the following two scenarios and ask how the leaders at your company would react:
1 An executive publishes her first blog post, primarily addressing her employees, but open to the public. Intending for the blog to help the survivors of a recent downsizing, she mentions that those who left the company are talented employees, and that the survivors should do things that replenish their spirit. The wife of a laid-off employee sends the chief executive a letter demanding the resignation of the executive because she finds the section on replenishing survivors’ spirits frivolous and insensitive. What would your CEO do?
2 A company implements an internal social networking platform that allows rating and comments on products and services. A new service, offered by the human resources department, receives very low ratings and negative, but not mean-spirited, comments. The head of HR requests that all the comments and the ratings be taken down. Would your company approve this request?
The manner in which the executives at your company would react to these two scenarios can be highly predictive of the success or failure of a social media implementation program.
If you’ve already implemented social media to connect to your customers, how are your organization’s executives responding to the wealth of information? Are they responsive, no matter how bad the feedback, or do they demand that it be filtered in order to create a more palatable conversation?
Social media has the power to democratize information and provide real-time, meaningful feedback on products and services. Are these the kinds of features that would increase your speed-to-market, improve innovation and engage your employees? Or do you worry more about threats to management structure, the security of your information and hierarchical protocol?
So how did the executives react in the two scenarios above?
The CEO in the first story, a blogger himself, sent the following message to the junior executive with the disgruntled wife’s e-mail attached:
“For what it’s worth, I dig your blog. It’s human, engaging, well written—and sends a message, the right message, to employees who want to be led by people they like/understand and respect. I did want you to see one person’s reaction, and you might consider timing on future blog posts.”
Note the reinforcing tone, in spite of what could be seen as a lapse in judgment. The executive continued blogging, having learned from the experience.
In the second case, the owner of the feedback site declined to take down the ratings and comments on the poor-performing product, as that would, in his opinion, be a dishonest act. However, he did work with the head of HR to quickly phase out the old ratings when HR decided to introduce an improved version of the service.
Jeanne C. Meister is an internationally recognized workplace-learning consultant, and the host of the blog newlearningplaybook.com. Karie Willyerd is the chief learning officer of Sun Microsystems. Meister and Willyerd are the coauthors of the forthcoming book, The 2020 Workplace.