Professional Use of Social Media: Empowerment vs Control (Part 3)

In parts 1 and 2 of this series on professional use of social media in the public service, I talked about the two different approaches you can take and about the social media disclaimer. In part 3, I would like to discuss two different models commonly used for message amplification through employee professional use of social media, the containment model and the empowerment model.

Containment vs Empowerment

As a Public Service Organization (PSO) looking to employees for message amplification, there are basically two main roads you can take but before we go down into the weeds of each, lets be clear on a few things:

  • Both models require a level of trade-offs between autonomy and security, initiative and supervision.

  • Both models require the support of senior management.

  • Both models require centralized social media resources.

  • Both models depend on having properly trained employees who understand social media and are aware of the organization’s objectives and of their own boundaries (Internal policies, laws and regulations, etc).

Containment model

Priority: Control and security

The containment model involves having limited, select groups of employees employing social media professionally on very tightly defined content. The number of employees involved can be scaled up over time or for specific campaigns but remains limited

Security and control are the basis of the Containment model. Control in terms of controlling the message. Security in terms of limiting potential hard the the organization’s reputation, or even from potential litigation stemming from an employee’s use of social media.

This model relies on a centralized control and multilayered approvals.

Empowerment model

Priority: Empowerment and amplification

In an empowerment model, employees are encouraged to take some initiative on social media, but it isn’t a free-for-all. Employees still require some support and guidance if they are to achieve the desired impact.

This model relies on clear messaging and encouragement from senior management. This will be key to employee buy-in. And if your organization does not have a culture of employee empowerment, the message may need to be reinforced a few times before employees believe it.

This model relies on employee judgement and training to achieve maximum impact.

So which is right for your organization?

Not all organizations have the freedom of letting employees speak out about their work on social media. Most PSOs have to comply with a plethora of laws and regulations, some more than others. So for some of these organizations, the empowerment model simply might not be feasible, at least not in the short term.

It comes down to this, what is most important for your organization?

If it is close control of the messaging for legal or other reasons, the Containment model is probably the way to go.

But if flexibility, the ability to respond very quickly to developing situations, and maximum message amplification are your game, then the Empowerment model is the one for you.

Alain Lemay is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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