Jun 07

Social Media Yak now in newspaper columns

Since launching the Social Media Yak radio show in February, we’ve been thinking of ways to expand it. After having worked for 12 years as a newspaper reporter, Boise social media consultant Martin Johncox knows that newspapers are looking for good advice to give their readers as well, so he has begun translating some of Social Media Yak radio interviews into newspaper columns.

Thanks to the Idaho Statesman Business Insider, which published the first column yesterday. It’s about St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center and their initiative to unban social media in the workplace. The text is below and the printed column follows.

We will be syndicating these columns to other newspapers so stay tuned.

We often hear of business banning social media at work – prohibiting their employees from accessing Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites. The assumption is that employees will waste time, reveal secrets or misrepresent the company.

Some businesses, however, realize they’re sitting on a gold mine of good public relations and have decided to encourage social media use at work, after developing sound policies and training materials. Properly trained, competent employees with good intentions can make your company more transparent, reveal how people view your company, help your company explain itself and build your brand as a good corporate citizen.

How to do it? Ken Dey, spokesman for St. Luke’s Health System, was recently my guest on the Social Media Yak radio show, where he discussed leading St. Luke’s to expand its social media efforts both internally and externally. Starting January 2012, St. Luke’s unbanned social media in the workplace and so far there have been no serious problems. According to Dey, St. Luke’s employees have consistently represented the company well, earning goodwill from the public, responding to concerns and praise, and reinforcing St. Luke’s image as a good place to work and seek medical care.  St. Luke’s is Idaho’s largest private employer, with 10,000 people.

Social media is really about people – not technology – so St. Luke’s efforts emphasize training. Their 5-minute video at youtube.com/stlukeshealthsystem should be required viewing for any company.

If employees list their place of work in their social media profile, they are, in effect, representing the company. Here are some of the things companies should keep in mind:

  • Develop a policy. The policy should spell out what is and isn’t permitted, when, where and by whom, and have legal review. Examples: Don’t bad-mouth the company, antagonize customers, gossip, blab confidential information or let social media get in the way of your job. Do use good judgment, common sense, show you understand your work and represent the company well. If you come across a post that requires an official response, alert someone in the company
  • Cultivate a professional attitude. Employees should comport themselves online as they would at work, particularly when interacting with members of the general public.
  • Reduce infection risks. Employees must not use their work email for their social media site logins.

Buy-in at the highest levels of the company is necessary and St. Luke’s CEO Dr. David Pate supported Dey’s initiative. Without that support from the top, Dey said his efforts wouldn’t have gotten far. Among other things, human resources, IT and legal need to understand that responsive, responsible employees choosing to use social media have value to the company. HR, legal and IT should be prepared to handle productivity, privacy and security issues, but they shouldn’t be able to block social media use because they perceive the risks as being too great.

Blocking access to social media at work doesn’t insulate your business from anything, except being aware of what the public really thinks about you. People are still talking about your business and your employees should be engaged and trained to participate, build relationships and correct misperceptions.

Martin Johncox is a social media consultant and producer of the Social Media Yak radio show, broadcast Saturday mornings on 580 KIDO. For more information, visit alexanderandassociates.com.

Idaho Statesman Business Insider publishes Social Media Yak column 6-6-2012