Professional Use of Social Media: Two Different Approaches

Originally posted on GovLoop by Alain Lemay

Professional use of social media in the workplace is arguably one of the last taboo in public sector. Public Sector Organizations (PSOs) more than any other have a need, real or perceived, to control the message. Having dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of employees Tweeting away on behalf of the organization is no one's idea of controlling the message. And yet, the potential for message amplification is very enticing.

Message amplification is, after all, one of the superpowers of social media. No matter how many followers your account might have, it is a nothing compared to the combined networks of your employees. It is this realization that has convinced more and more PSOs to encourage employees to use their personal accounts to become brand ambassadors and help toe the company line.

But like any social media initiative, this one is not risk free and there are serious potential repercussions to the PSOs brand and reputation. The reality is that this approach is still being ironed out and there is still much debate as to what constitutes the best approach.

At the heart of the debate lie a few core issues. Should employees use purely professional accounts or should they use hybrid accounts? Should they put a disclaimer in their bio stating that they are not official spokespersons for the organization? How much autonomy should they have in terms of selecting content? Over the next few posts, i will try to tackle some of those issues and provide you with some useful tips that should help minimise risk to the employer AND the employee.

In this first part, let's look at the different account type options.

On the two types of approaches:

Pure professional or hybrid pro-personal, both have their merits.

Pure professional: an account that an employee creates exclusively for work purposes

Pro's:

  • No personal content that distracts the audience from the corporate messaging

  • No content that could prove to be problematic for the organization (e.g. personal opinions or endorsements that do not mesh well with the organization)

Con's:

  • You lose the personality of the employee and so becomes less social

  • Posting nothing but corporate messaging can turn off many followers

  • In some cases, you could actually be infringing on a platform's terms of service (e.g. Twitter considers posting the same content over multiple accounts to be spam (See Twitter Rules) and could get all of your accounts frozen or worse)

Hybrid: A personal account used for personal AND professional purposes

Pro's:

  • More personnality lets you build deeper relationships with your followers and creates a feeling of trust over time

  • Greater flexibility in choosing a wide variety of content will help build a stronger following more likely to retweet you.

Con's:

  • The corporate messaging can be diluted or ignored

  • Greater risk of conflict with the organizations goals and policies

So which one is right for you and your organization? It will really depend on the nature of the work employees are doing, their familiarity with social media and with the organizational culture, processes and policies, and with the general level of comfort and trust between employees and management.

In Part 2 - to disclaimer or not to disclaimer, we will discuss whether or not PSO employees should add a disclaimer to their bios!

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