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INSIGHT

Social media sabotage: what managers should know

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

I’ve commented previously on social media and how employees, prospective employees and employers should view it with both interest and caution.

Anyone involved in hiring should be aware of the social media presence of prospective employees and even current workers. This is especially true on business networking sites such as LinkedIn, but for other sites as well. Although some will disagree, it’s entirely proper for employers and managers to be aware of this online presence and, if relevant, consider it as part of the employee’s background.

But another perspective involves organizational use of social media. This is especially true for business pages on sites such as Facebook and Google+.

This will be old news to many, especially larger organizations with formal marketing departments or contractors. It’s also true for smaller firms where an employer or employee has taken the initiative of creating a page for the organization. These are potentially powerful communication tools, both for office and public communications.

I’m not a social media expert, so I won’t attempt to comment on everything needed for setting up and maintaining your page. But, because office managers often become involved one way or another, I think a few basic suggestions are in order.

First, operating a Facebook or Google+ page is probably something you should consider. I know many organizations formally prohibit this as policy, often established by top management or directors. I never say never, but I suspect this is increasingly self-defeating.

One of the most frequent comments I hear is, “If we set up a Facebook page, we’ll just get complaints and criticism.” I can almost guarantee that complaints won’t be all you get—unless you’re running a really, really bad organization.

But the best answer I’ve heard goes like this: You’re probably generating many of those complaints and criticisms now. If you operate your own page, you’ll at least have a chance to hear them and deal with them.

This is similar to my advice on telephone complaint lines, especially those for employees. There are sometimes legitimate reasons not to have them but, operated correctly, they can provide an invaluable conduit for things you should know but might otherwise miss. And they provide a way to answer them.

Unlike hotlines, however, social media is very public, and in really bad situations you can have a snowball effect where complaints seem to be self-perpetuating. Again, I recommend you don’t automatically dismiss the use of social media, just be realistic about what you can and should do.

One option is to simply delete criticism or complaints that seem nothing more than baseless charges. That business page is yours, and you have every right to not allow it to be used by bullies or others looking to inflate their ego at others’ expense, including at the expense of your company. If a complaint or criticism is valid but still not something you want aired in public, move the conservation to the private sphere by sending a message requesting that the individual call or email.

You’ll also find a lot of self-policing on social media. If you are running the page right—with helpful, useful content that people want to follow—you’ll likely find that many of your followers will step in and “correct” someone who sends what they consider unfair criticism or complaints. These positive responses, whether your formal answer or another follower’s correction, can be very powerful.

There is much more, and a major consideration is in fact whether you have time to do social media right. Ultimately, I suspect your organization will find its way to social media one way or the other and you’re better off going in prepared.

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.

The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.

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