As with many social and business networking website trends some business owners are in need of guidance as to whether they should be concerned when these websites show up on their employee’s monitors. I will attempt to bring some of the key points in clear view for you to review and possibly help you understand some of the general risks and benefits of these trends.
Understand the differences between networking sites and messaging systems. Many corporations allow the use of one or more instant messaging applications at your work PC for alternate communication with children, parents, schools etc... where cell phones are not allowed to be turned on in the office. Others companies allow text messaging in the office with cell phones on vibrate or silent settings. Either of these is much different than maintaining a Blog or a Twitter page. A Blog or Twitter page can be sometimes viewed publicly by anyone where as an instant message or text message is more of a one-to-one communication with a known en[censored]y. A Blog is used in many cases to post an article for a specific topic or set of topics while Twitter is a running mini-blog or what I call a text message to the world that can used to describe day-to-day, minute-to-minute personal activities & thoughts. I remember seeing on the news of a Senator or Congressman twittering during a Presidential address that he would rather be watching a basketball game and how disrespectful that was to the President.
Twitter as well as many other online posting sites whether personal or business focused are not necessarily detrimental to your business productivity, but they can be.
Some suggestions on how to protect your business from potential problems:
- Get acquainted with these new sites and trends yourself. Most accounts are free, easy to use and there is no greater way to understand and measure the impact on your business. You may be pleasantly surprised.
- Be sure your employment agreement and Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) documentation is up to date and includes language to protect you proprietary and trade secret information regardless of the media. Remember, due to the nature of the portable communication devices such as Blackberry and iPhone type of PDA devices this applies to “all” staff whether driving a desk with a PC or a delivery truck.
- Talk to your staff about these new websites and openly discuss their possible uses as well as limitations before you blindly post restrictions. This may create a better buy-in to new policies from your staff. Employees should be specifically reminded to not share any proprietary or confidential information.
Some suggestions on how Twitter and Twitter-like sites can help support your business:
- Use Twitter as a communication tool with your clients as well as an extension of your website. Provide news and information on new products, services and helpful hints to your clients. Having this extension may help potential clients favorably perceive your company because it interacts in a contemporary and intelligent fashion.
- Twitter may provide more direct access to high-visibility individuals then other profile linking sites.
- Twitter’s follow the leader topology allows you to create a true fan-base for you, your business or your interest or cause. It can help you create a more personal style of communication with your clients.
- Use the Twitter Search to perform market analysis on your product or services. There is no better way to find out what clients or compe[censored]ors think than reading it yourself.
- Use your imagination on how this can be a big part of your Public Relations effort. Small and large companies are reporting that Twitter is becoming the heart of their PR efforts.
- It is virtually impossible to keep up with all these different sites keep abreast of the tools available to consolidate your posts over several sites or iden[censored]ies make or break the success of one or all of these site, and ultimately help you succeed in business.
When introducing yourself to various new technologies or methodologies be wary of the nay sayers that may tell you things like: “Why are you going to waste your time”, “that’s for kids”, “Why not just focus on your business”, “Big Brother is going to be watching you every minute”, “its just a fad”.
Keep in mind…
Television struggled to become a national mass media in the 1950’s and eventually became a cultural force influencing the way people live and the government they elect. Try not to dismiss any new technology without giving it a fair shake.
In today’s world it may be a seemingly daunting task to keep informed about new avenues of communication. A little time goes a long way. By taking a bit of dedicated time to research these methods you will find yourself more confident in adjusting as they are introduced.