Over the last few years, there has been a continuing debate about whether Facebook should be banned at work. The more enlightened have allowed unrestricted access, whilst perhaps cursing their inability to prevent staff wasting hours of time on it. Then there developed the “intelligent view” that restricted its use during out of office hours, others thought of confining it to a central computer in the middle of the room. And then of course it dawned on all of us that it could now be downloaded on to a mobile which meant that the “secret user brigade” were quite able to access Facebook as often as they wanted to.
How valuable is Facebook?
The real problem is that banning Facebook sends out a message that first of all we don’t trust our staff to use their time responsibly and also that we assume that the use of Facebook can be of no possible value to the businesses that we run. That of course then leads on to the argument about whether social media can or should play a part in how we go about our business.
Changing the rules
The internet is clearly a ‘Rule Changer’ as Grant Le Boff describes it in his excellent book called “Sticky Marketing”. The change in communications from one-to-many into many-to-many is fact, not a fanciful theory. It is clear that we no longer have the right to respond that the old style of communication, facilitated by the PR and creative agencies allowed us to have. No longer can we rely on creating an image that reflects our product or service when people talk about us between themselves without us being able to control those conversations. Reputation is all and yours will stand or fall on what other people say, or what they don’t say, to each other about you.
Youth and vanity?
Even if you really can’t bring yourself to tweet (and I am not sure at the moment that I am ready to do so!) the compelling reason to open a Twitter account is to use the phenomenon as a defensive mechanism. How many business leaders still talk about social media as if it pertains only to youth and vanity?
Woe betide the business that is not aware of what is being said about it! Stay out of the loop on conversations and groups that discuss your business or at least the areas in which you would like your business to operate and you are dead in the water. Failure to monitor or respond to adverse criticism (which Google or Twitter Alerts will serve up to you on a plate) is like paying your PR Agency to say bad things about you!
How do these luddites (exhausted from the pressure of just having had to absorb the Internet and email) excuse their inability to react? Well, there is nothing new under the sun, is there? Precisely! What is going on here has always gone on. The little Black book has now become the LinkedIn list of connections. The gossip that floats round one’s Club is now the conversations that take place in the Industry or social group that you should have joined on Facebook or LinkedIn. You can't afford to ignore what people are saying about you.
Watching “The King’s Speech” at the weekend reminded me of the inexorable way that change works in the world of communication. If only all we had to dread was the incursion of the radio into our lives, then wouldn’t life be simple.
Christopher Jenkins is co-founder and senior partner at Wingrave Yeats.