I read with interest an article in The Dominion Post this morning entitled Online is offside, All Blacks warned. Stuff has linked to the article World Cup Twitter ban for All Blacks. The upshot of the story is that the All Blacks, in response to a drive from senior players, will not be allowed to engage in social media for the duration of the Rugby World Cup. In particular, Twitter, personal Facebook pages, blogs and newspaper columns are deemed out of bounds and described as a “distraction”. Official All Blacks Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with the mainstream media, will be the primary means for interacting with the public. But what about telephones, email, tv or radio interviews (often live)? To me, there is little difference between social media and other forms of communication in this scenario.
As an organisation, we have been exploring ways to build our brand via social media and the issues associated with this. We have a social media policy which is accompanied by a set of guidelines for staff. Comments made via personal accounts must be clearly stated as our own and not necessarily shared by our employer. ‘Official’ accounts must be authorised by senior management and social media best practice and protocols apply. This pretty much goes without saying and prudence is expected.
I wonder whether developing a policy with clear guidelines about the appropriate use of social media would be more suitable for a business or public body such as the All Blacks, rather than implementing a blanket ban? Obviously anything that could reflect badly upon an employer, or information that is commercially sensitive, is automatically a no go area. But how about using social media to enhance and harness the power of a brand in a positive way? To me, careful and strategic use of social media can have positive and wide-reaching effects that far outweigh the lost opportunities we risk when imposing a blanket ban.
Mashable had a blog post today talking about 10 people who lost jobs over social media mistakes. My question is: is it the social media at fault, or is it user error? To me, these are behavioural issues in which social media was simply the vehicle. I agree that the behaviours were not appropriate, but by placing the blame on social media is somewhat misleading, even sensationalist. Some time and effort spent on exploring and defining the lines of separation between personal and professional online behaviour could be a valuable solution here.