In “Technical Communication Unbound,” Ferro and Zachry discuss survey results on the use and prohibition of social media among technical communicators from 2008 to 2011. It was interesting that just a few years ago, many participants surveyed claimed that their employers had restrictions and policies which prevented communicators from using social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Ferro and Zachy end their article with “Students need to learn to communicate effectively through services, and not only to operate the sites that are currently most popular in their network.”

This is now happening, as corporations are actively encouraging employees to develop a social persona on behalf of the company around an area of expertise. Moreover, corporations are also removing obstacles (fear of social media or permission to access it) and are providing tools, processes, and training on how employees should simplify content and curate topics. In fact, companies now have engagement strategies in which they have identified and prioritized social media platforms that should be used for primary content engagement. They also provide tips and tricks, checklists, toolkits, and recommendations on how to build a network, how to build a following, and how to audit an  existing social media account.

My husband was recently selected as a social media subject matter expert for his company. As a result, he had to go through a week of training and was given a handbook on how to develop a social media persona on behalf of his company. In the 103- page handbook, specific guidelines dictate:

  • Which picture to use in an avatar (every picture/avatar must be the same across all social media platforms).
  • Details on how to write a bio that tells a story (about who you are and what you do).
  • Which usernames are allowed and which usernames are prohibited.
  • A list of popular hashtags to use in conversations on specific topics.
  • Accounts on third-party analytic sites (e.g., Klout) that must also be created and maintained.
  • How to create a content plan that also includes procedures on how to map out content ideas and tips on how to “write killer content.”
  • Templates to use to write a blog.
  • Which browsers to use (i.e., Goggle Chrome is the preferred browser).
  • Minimum activity to be held accountable to: one LinkedIn post per week and one Twitter post per week.

In just a few short years, companies have shifted from discouraging or prohibiting social media, to embracing it (with specific guidelines, of course). As social media and the Web 2.0 evolve, it will be interesting to see how companies will continue to respond. What will the next five years bring? Will there be more specific guidelines on the dos and don’ts of using social media or will companies relax their rules?

About peahleah

Youngest of four, left home at 17, traveled the country, and wound up in Austin.

Posted on November 9, 2014, in Social Media, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. When I was in the mortgage industry, social networks were prohibited. All three companies I worked for had filters which blocked access to all social media, radio stations, forums, sports related sites, and even Yahoo for awhile. I believe this was due to the nature of the business at the time being 110% production based. We weren’t advertising, we weren’t selling, we were moving the files as fast as possible.

    That same industry today encourages the use of social media at work (to promote and advertise). Now that the phone isn’t ringing 16 hours a day, the powers that be see the need to have a presence in the newest marketing frontier. The unfortunate or fortunate thing, depending on the size of your mortgage company, is if you were hungry and out in social media when the big players were getting fat on the easy refinances, you are getting enough business to be successful. Conversely, if you bellied up to the refinance trough and ignored building a social network and just worried about the next phone call, you are just about starving right now.

    I think companies will figure out a way to have or allow their employees to navigate social media in a way that helps the employer. The employers will do this in a way that makes it seem like they are loosening up, but in reality they will be limiting and manipulating an employees every key stroke. It seems foolish or hard to believe that it will happen, but if you told me five years ago, that today, I would be driving a vehicle without a tape deck, I would’ve thought you were nuts.

  2. What amuses me the most about the story you shared is the fact that there was a 103-page document associated with creating a company social media profile. It makes me happy that companies are taking social media seriously, but at the same time it bothers me because maybe they seem to be taking it a bit too seriously?

    • I too smiled when I read the line about the 103-page handbook! I do think guidelines or “best practices” documents are necessary because no matter how relaxed companies get, there will need to be professionalism and consistency across their profiles, both online and off!

  3. natashajmceachin

    I love this change, companies and people in general are respecting social media more along with the endless possibilities. I feel that they had no other choice considering the way the face of communication is changing.

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