Social Media Revolution 2011 – The new Erik Qualman video

Those of us in the social media fishbowl are all familiar with the Socialnomics video series by Erik Qualman. I have used various versions throughout the years in my presentations, however not so much over the last few, due to the simple fact that many of them were being over-played and over-hyped. Another element I wasn’t a fan of was the amount of American only statistics in past videos, especially considering how global social media has become.

Enter Erik Qualman’s latest video, Social Media Revolution 2011 (embedded below). Finally more of a global perspective on what is going on in the digital universe, complete with some global statistics and a nice African soundtrack. A perfect intro to the global context I always like to set forth before I speak. Thank you Erik and team!

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Dannielle Blumenthal

What an astounding video. As I was watching it I had sort of a revolutionary idea. Or maybe somebody else has thought/written about it already, but I haven’t seen it.

The normal course of business right now is for a certain designated person or group of people to represent the agency online. This is problematic for a few reasons.

* First, it tends to bunch up knowledge of social media in the hands of a few, when really many people ought to be using it. There are millions of people wanting information from the agency, right? And they’re not all clicking on the website – rather they’re checking Facebook before they brush their teeth in the morning. The more ambassadors, the more information is being provided in response to the public’s questions.

* Second, creating a complex authorization process around language sort of defeats the purpose of social media. It’s supposed to be quick, human, organic, evolving…not heavily vetted and stale.

* Third, there is no escaping the fact that social media presence requires personality. So if you only have a few people representing the agency online, you are by default “branding” the agency with their voice. Which is a bit of a risk on a few levels, not the least of which is reputation risk.

What if government agencies simply gave interested employees permission to open “official” social media accounts anywhere as long as they follow a fair and simple process for doing so? I can’t think of a better way to engage the workforce than to have them delve into the mission, understand very well what is going on, and then be responsible for answering the public’s questions?

Of course this raises about a million concerns about things getting out of control. What if the employees just dart out of the barn and do whatever they want, who will enforce the rules? What if a problem employee starts mouthing off and says something untrue? What if criminals pretend to be the agency and provide the public false information? And what if official agency information is not properly preserved?

These are all valid concerns. There is no perfect way to deal with them.

At the same time, it seems to me that the public is incredibly confused about where to find information they need, and in tough financial times, empowering the workforce to provide information could be an efficient way of solving this problem. While also boosting compliance. And boosting a positive working relationship between the agency, which carries out the law, and the public, which of course may not like having to deal with laws and regulations that constrain them.

In addition, I have found that social media users are incredibly self-regulating. If someone gets out of control or if some information is floated that sounds funny, people will talk about it and track it down naturally without anyone having to tell them to do that. For the simple reason of self-interest: We want to know that we can rely on the informal opinions posted out there.

A good example of this is software downloads – they are usually rated, ranked, and have comments alongside them so you can judge whether they might be virus-infected or not.

Employees who choose to represent the agency on a social media account would have to agree to stuff like this, I think:

1) RIGOROUS training concluded by a signed agreement as to what is OK and not OK to do

2) random checks of what they’re doing online

3) work arrangement to calculate how many hours they’re using for this

4) equipment issues – agencies might not want employee accessing social media through regular firewall, so special computer might be needed

5) agency-mandated disclosure to make it clear who they are and what they’re doing

6) likely being subject to stricter policies regarding personal use of social media – since the employee has taken on a special role representing the agency brand, people might look up their personal accounts, and the two should at least not conflict

7) use some sort of branded language for the account name (e.g. AgencyName_FirstnameLastInitial)

8) use a graphical ID that is unique to agency communications online (a visual brand of some kind)

9) if possible, add a special “verified” token to their account to deter cyber-criminals

10) some sort of reporting policy on an occasional but regular basis (once a week?) so that statements the employee makes online have some sort of oversight.

(Note that #10 is separate from the consideration of whether employee statements constitute permanent or temporary records, but this issue is something that can be dealt with by subject matter experts.)

And also with some sort of enforcement mechanism to catch and deter employees who represent the agency on social media without permission. And to catch fraudsters. All of that.

All of these qualifications may seem a bit overcomplicated. But perhaps the idea is something to consider. The reality is that every employee represents their agency every single day. It happens in the physical world for sure, if not the cyberworld. People bring home their agency magazines, explain the missions of their agencies, answer questions, and even (gasp!) field complaints from others. Over things that confuse, concern and even anger them.

Also, I have read and experienced personally the phenomenon that subject matter experts – meaning frontline employees – are viewed as more credible than intermediaries who purport to represent them.

Just a thought. That went on way too long. But I think this may actually be something. What do you all think?

Mike Kujawski

Great insight Dannielle, that’s basically the approach I’m trying to instill when I work with my public sector clients. Take a look at some best practices for public sector social media engagement employee guidelines:

And, of course: http://www.socialmediagovernance.com

You do mention some valuable additional points though that could potentially be added to some of these. Thanks for sharing!