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Would you mandate that your staff must have a social media presence?

Would you mandate that all your staff must use social media, at least to give it a try?

That’s what one company in the US, Domo (a business intelligence startup), has done.

The CEO, Josh James, has mandated that all 130 of Domo’s staff complete 20 social media and online tasks over eight weeks, from creating three Google+ circles to creating a playlist on a online music service.

Called “the #domosocial experiment“, as staff complete tasks they receive badges and there’s rewards for individual staff who have met the full target, plus a bonus day off if the entire company achieves the goals.

If uncomfortable with the concept, they can create ‘disposable’ accounts – simply so that they understand how various online services work – rather than using their existing personal accounts or creating an ongoing online presence.

As reported in TechCrunch, the experiment is already delivering results,

James says he can see a difference in the way the team operates. He recalls tweeting out some company news, then seeing it retweeted by more than 50 percent of the workforce. Another time, he says he tweeted about a feature that he was really impressed by see in another product. James didn’t mention it again, but two weeks later an engineer proudly demonstrated a way to add that functionality to Domo’s product. And it’s not just about watching the boss’ Twitter account and keeping him happy. James also says that when he walks through the company’s cubicles, he’s more likely to see (or hear) consumer apps like Pandora or Rdio in action.

“It’s given us a common language,” he adds.

The company’s progress is being published online at www.domo.com/what-we-do/social-status

Should other organisations take this step – mandating their staff to at least trial the use of various social media and online tools?

I think there’s merit in the concept.

Staff don’t need to be taught how to use television, radio or newspapers because they universally grew up exposed to them.

However the generations that grew up with social media are only at the cusp of hitting the workforce, so there’s a lot of people in your organisation who are extremely familiar with traditional media but potentially lack experience in online.

While it may not be practicable to mandate that all staff must use social media, teams that deal with public and stakeholder engagement, communication, customer service and business intelligence should all be well equipped to use online channels to meet the goals of the organisation.

Using a reward based process, as Domo has done, provides a better canvass than a penalty based approach and, I think, is well worth considering.

I have begun to hear of communications teams in the private sector who will not hire staff who are not conversant with the major social media channels, and courses for senior managers – both within and outside the public service – which require as ‘home work’ that they establish Twitter or other accounts.

If we want to foster a 21st Century workforce then we do need to take steps to create it, not just sit back and wait.

A strategy encouraging people to use online tools, which costs little to implement, might be a good start.

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Tammy Spicer

Anyone who works on my public affairs team has to have a social media presence. We have to be able to advise and assist, in addition to knowing what is out there.

Chris Cairns

I wouldn’t mandate it, but I’d encourage it through education on the benefits of having a digital presence and how to create one.

David B. Grinberg

As we know, the private sector and public sector often have very different organizational structures, standards, procedures and levels of bureaucracy regarding social media activity. With that said, every Government agency, for starters, should have a social media presence mandated as part of an agency-wide communications plan. Most agencies first develop a broad and uniform social media policy, which often takes time to be vetted through multiple offices, like IT and Legal Counsel, agency leadership, etc. Thus, I think it’s essential for staff of the communications and public affairs offices to have social media experience and run social media accounts for an agency HQ. Some agencies have several accounts, one for HQ News and others for separate program or field offices. However, each office using socia media should agree to, and abide by, the agency-wide policy, having clear lines of delination, command and control in place. Just having employees freelance for their agency or business is a bad idea in my view because, 1) you may have mixed messages going out which obscure and damage the brand; 2) it only takes one bad post or tweet, especially a factually incorrect or sensational one, to cause major embarrassment and loss of credibility for an agency; 3) it’s best to operate from a uniform plan where everyone is on the same page per frequency, volume and content of social media messaging, and; 4) learning on the fly or by trial and error is bad policy and practice.

Of course, a private sector work environment, especially non-corporate, is more likely to approve of experimentation by workers, whereas most Government agencies take a regimented, go slow approach to ensure uniformity and accuracy in messaging and branding (which makes the most sense to me). Better to be safe than sorry. Also, another interesting and unfortunate factor of private sector social media use (depending on one’s vantage point of labor vs. management) is it that companies have been known to fire or discipline employees for their non-work related social media use done in their private time — if the company deems it negative for its brand image and reputation (even though that may amount to unlawful behavior by the employer). The bottom line in having an organizational social media presence is consistency and uniformity of messaging and content to maximize brand image. Too many social media freelancers without clear direction may often result in more harm than good, which is a self-defeating endeavor.