Facebook and its role in the workplace: shooting the messenger

You know, for me, the most frustrating thing in the world has got to be hindsight. And coming up with that great question or comment too late.

People will talk - its what makes us - well, us.

I’ve just attended the Manchester 2011 Information Security Leaders seminar. Inevitably, discussion turned to Facebook use in the office.

Part of the event was an open-mike panel featuring some of the great and the good of the security industry and a couple of leading industry security figures. And Facebook made them nervous.

Afterwards, the question I wished I’d had the forethought to ask came to me…

Will banning Facebook improve your people’s perception of your company?

Occupational censorship

Whenever technology is involved, rational thinking somehow flies out the window replaced by some other alien pseudo-reality.

We mustn’t type in words on Facebook because they may not be nice words.

As if banning Facebook will prevent us saying bad things about, well, bad things.

We will say bad things about stuff because the things are bad, not because some social technology makes it so. Facebook merely provides an outlet for saying so.

Wake up – its not the press that’s bad – its the subject of it

If there’s negative sentiment about your business, surely its better to address why people think that way, not that its being said. Facebook can actually help you – because it is centred in one place and therefore manageable.

So, doesn’t it make good sense to give staff a platform to voice their criticisms, where it can be addressed and turned around?

The Middle East has shown that closing comment channels doesn’t stop dissent. Acting vindictively is far more likely to get rid of you!

It speaks volumes about a business that seeks to restrict people’s unalienable right to free speech. It is an admission that your product or service is substandard, but you simply don’t want to make it better.

Five tips for a Facebook strategy in a corporate environment

This is how to join the conversation, not prevent it.

No 1: create an official company page and keep it up to date.

No 2: both management and staff should be encouraged to contribute.

No 3: take criticism on the chin. Its often well founded and mirrors your market.

No 4: react quickly. Don’t argue aggressively, discuss. Fix broken stuff. Improve.

No 5: shout about your success. Be positive about what you’ve achieved.

Controlling vindictive comments

I’m not pretending that some aggrieved member of staff may not have it in for you. We’re only human after all. But if that does happen, a reasoned and considered response can show everybody that you’re the good guy, doing the right thing.

Its essential though that you respond quickly, before you lose control of events. Bad situations always get worse when not dealt with quickly.

Be proud of your business

Don’t be afraid of what people might say about you. Look forward to the great things they’ll say when you do things right!