Isn’t Twitter wonderful? Instantaneously, it can place a message into smart phones across the globe. As a low cost, no effort means of communication, nothing beats it. And the beauty is…it penetrates that youth market that every manager wants to reach.
Isn’t that so trendy…so alluring…SO DANGEROUS?
With a shelf life longer than a fist full of nuclear waste, Twitter messages should be handled with extreme care – a warning to which managers should pay careful attention.
Ask this question: Would you sanction the release of a company press statement that had not been thoroughly checked, approved at a most senior level and, perhaps, passed before your company lawyers?
You bet you wouldn’t!
Yet, how many managers give their social media communicators free rein to compose corporate messages and broadcast online to as many so-called ‘followers’ as they can reach?
Constrained to compose messages within a straightjacket of 140 characters, can managers be satisfied with the linguistic shortcuts that must be taken? And when the responses come tumbling in, can managers be confident that replies being issued mirror corporate policy exactly?
In most cases, the answer is a whopping ‘NO’!
If a corporate tweet offends against good taste, in what difficulty could a manager be?
If a corporate tweet contains matter that offends against laws of defamation, what protection does a manager have? If a corporate tweet challenges beliefs and leads to protest, how can a manager safeguard reputation and protect a business against the possible consequences that might follow?
If a Twitter user, known to be an employee of a business, posts a personal utterance that could be considered damaging to his/her employer’s good name and reputation, what right does a manager have to challenge that employee and lay down conditions governing his/her future Twitter content?
Understanding young people as we do – they being most active users of Twitter – one must be doubly conscious of the fact that they tend to be less aware of the importance of image and reputation, often placing their own at risk in a way that previous generations would not.
In the matter of Twitter, it is long past time that managers sat up, took note and introduced some robust company policies and protocols around the use of social media. Managers should alert their staff to the potential dangers inherent in the use of social media and not trundle along believing that – because it is somewhat new, has developed so quickly and is widely used, and mindful of its immediacy and effectiveness as a means of communications – it should be embraced with enthusiasm and without question or regulation.
Hall PR is not of that school. Indeed, many learned people in the world of media and communications don’t think so either. In the matter of Twitter and social media use generally, society has already entered the danger zone. Now is the time for managers to make sure they and their companies have not gone there too.
Without delay, managers should take these actions: Develop policy. Write strict corporate guidelines, rules and regulations. Engage the advice of lawyers, if necessary. Ensure that employees are made aware of policy and cautioned in regard to their adherence to it. Establish procedures for the approval of content. Put insurance protection in place. Publicise policy, if one so chooses.
Above all, remember this: To whatever extent one might criticise you for ‘not being on Twitter’, you will definitely be criticised if a problem arises and you are found to be on Twitter in a way that is not managed and responsible and that fails to take proper account of the damage that unregulated Twitter content can cause!