A few minutes ago, because my friend Russell Lawson shared a link on Twitter that intrigued me (thank you Russell), I read an article in The Post and Courier from Charleston, South Carolina.

It’s about Social Media use troubling some managers.

Author Cindy Krischer Goodman wrote about the dilemma facing businesses today.

“While most companies understand the value of connecting with customers online in social networks, some also fear employees will waste work time or worse, reveal confidential information or offend a customer or co-worker.”

“With social networking exploding, at some point this year, every business will have to confront the challenge and answer this question: Embrace it or ban it?”

Some of the comments readers left mentioned how important it is because this is the way digital natives, those who were born with, or grew up with, digital methods of communication as the norm, live.

I left Cindy, and everyone, a comment that boils down to this:

Embrace It Already!

Many workers who are not digital natives, but who understand the importance of keeping up with communication in all forms, are also important to consider.

Social Media are being used by employees of all ages and interests. You can no longer keep these communication tools out of their lives during the work day just as you can’t keep email, telephone and face-to-face communication away from people. These are tools that are here to stay, and will become a large part of every business around you, so it’s time to:

  • Become familiar with them.
  • Frame them.
  • Train people on them.
  • Monitor them.
  • Integrate them in to your business and marketing plans.
  • Then repeat all of these steps regularly.

I would not sit back much longer, hoping you learn all of this from osmosis, or hoping it all goes away because neither is going to happen.

It’s time.

Look at the steps above, and figure out what you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with, reach out and ask for help, and get on with it!

It’s your responsibility as managers, partners, business owners and leaders to do what needs to be done to make your organizations run safely, effectively and efficiently, to drive the internal and external forces that help you accomplish your business goals, and to be responsive to your clients and potential clients.

Now is one of those times.

If this post interests you, you might also find this one interesting.  Even though it is written with wording for law firms, it is applicable to any type of business.  Should Law Firms Ban Use of Facebook At Work?

Thank you very much to Melissa Wiese for the adorable photo of Data, the cat, above.

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  • Nancy, as I’m sure you can guess, I completely agree with you. I’ve heard from some of our firms that they’ve tried to ban social networking sites at work, but the problem is that so many employees have smart phones these days, that that’s just not practical anymore. It’s a nice idea to think as an employer than you can control your employees’ use of social media, but if they can still access it on their non-company/firm-provided phones, there’s no way to regulate it. So as you suggest, the better answer is to learn about the tools, and then educate your employees on what the company/firm expects from them in terms of their usage of the tools and the messages they send out if they’re affiliated with the company or firm.

    And the benefits, for me, far, FAR outweigh the negatives – my dad recently visited a potential member firm, who knew about us already because of our social media efforts and blogging. Hopefully they’ll become a member firm, in part because of these efforts and the way we highlight our firms, and what a benefit to us as a Network! People can access a whole other world of potential business development through social media – they just need to figure out their goals and come up with a plan, that they then communicate with the rest of their employees. And yes, mistakes and gaffes can and WILL happen – so include in part of your plan a crisis communication component that addresses how to respond to these, both internally and externally. Then, social media won’t be so scary.

  • Very challenging ma’am; it’s still a generational thing and you have a lot of old school owners who don’t understand it and are not ready to embrace it. HOWEVER, I think it’s safe to say it is here to stay. Therefore, you better embrace it on some level and following the steps you mentioned would be an excellent guide.

    If everyone waited until it was nice, safe and secure and one of your employees won’t say something bad about co-workers or your business…………..too late as that time has already come and gone.

    That train has already left the station and hopefully you had a seat.

  • Thanks Lindsay. You and I do think a lot alike when it comes to this, and many, areas of communication. What a great example you’ve given about your potential member firm. This is no different than the business development efforts of every firm using these tools. When used strategically, as you suggest, they can become very effective ways to become known, liked and trusted by those observing. Thanks for making this post better!

  • Hi Bill…welcome! It’s largely mental when someone decides they don’t want to understand these tools. People in positions of power are very smart. They didn’t get there because they were afraid to take chances and learn new ways of doing business. You’re right, waiting too long is not good for business. It’s time to grab a seat and figure it all out, or ask for help, whichever works in to each firm’s business operation. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Nancy –
    Thanks for the shout out, who knew I could be interesting? A key fact that I employ to galvanize interest among lawyers is that the state Bars are already regulating the online social space under the existing advertising rules. If someone who works for the lawyer is playing in the sandbox and transgresses the Bar rules — even if it is on their personal time — ignorance of the style of offense is no defense. The licensee is still going to be held responsible for breach of ethics. Best risk management action is to apply training and bring the ethics rules into the standard of participation. Even the most Luddite of lawyers understands the risk of disciplinary action by the Bar.

  • All these listed fears imply that these risks only attend social networking and its channels. How utterly ignorant.

    Employees have been sharing inappropriate company information, offending customers, wasting time (or recharging, depending on one’s view) in every medium as it has become available, beginning with the watering hole.

    As Seth Godin and so many others have said, there’s a conversation going on about your brand, your firm, your services and your people. The variable is whether or not you’re participating.

    Acting as if social media channels themselves constitute an inherent risk is as primitively superstitious as the airlines acting like shutting off my phone (or even sillier, Kindle) somehow means the plane is no longer surrounded by or bombarded with electronic traffic and radio waves. “If I close my eyes, the monster isn’t there!”

  • Hi Russell…I knew you could be interesting! Thank you…I love your sound advice regarding how to present this to lawyers. Perfect…thanks for sharing.

  • Exactly Mike! Fear causes smart people to do very unintelligent things such as closing their eyes, and not hitting these topics, challenges and opportunities head on. It’s time. It’s even past time. Thanks for contributing to the conversation with your words, which are always honest and informed!