On 2 September 2010, Yahoo! News Singapore reported that several SIA crew members had been issued warning letters over their inappropriate postings of work-related matter on their Facebook accounts. SIA confirmed that action has been taken to “protect proprietary information as well as the privacy of other staff and our customers”. The spokesman clarified that similar to many other companies, including government ministries, SIA does not impose a total ban on staff members using Facebook, but instead has clear guidelines that staff must not comment on work matters.
Netizens’ response to SIA’s actions has been mixed – some have held the crew members accountable for their failure to restrict access to their postings to friends only, while others have “flamed” SIA and supported the crews’ rights to express their views. The proliferation of social media is this increasingly challenging companies to manage unauthorized employee communications.
My belief is similar to that of Steve Durbin (Vice-president of sales and marketing at Information Security Forum) – social media is here to stay and it can only become more pervasive. Companies should therefore direct their efforts on capitalising on their employees usage instead of restricting it. This is because in the perfect information environment nothing stays hidden forever. It is therefore best to address issues before they get out of control.
My proposal is simple. To win the battle for social media, companies must focus on achieving two things – (a) gaining and maintaining the information initiative; and (b) dominating the blogosphere by having information superiority.
To do this, companies must embrace their employee bloggers and convert them into ambassadors of the company. Employee bloggers must be proactively engaged by senior management to ensure their understanding of the company’s position on matters, rationale for unpopular policies, and limitations to adequately address the concerns of all employees. This clearer understanding of management thinking will then enable them to “speak up” (as third-party endorsements) for the company. In addition, if their numbers are large and their blogs well followed, their postings will allow the company to gain the information initiative while at the same time, their volume may “drown-out” the nay-sayers giving the company information superiority over the incident.
Hence, I advocate Internal Communications as the key to winning the battle for social media.