Harnessing the Power of Social Media in the Workplace

This is my second installment on my review of FHRD’s National Annual Conference 2010.

During the event, I chose to attend one of the parallel workshops which focused on how social media and the workplace can be friends. The speakers were:-

Jon Worth

According to his blog, Jon Worth is a “European, social democrat, federalist, feminist, atheist, anti-monarchist, ENTJ, inline skater, blogger, website designer, avid Mac user and trainer.” The slides used in his presentation are freely available on this page and can be used for any personal or corporate activities.

 

Jon Worth - Political blogger

 

Despite his success as a political blogger working even in Brussels for the EU, John chose to start off his intro talk with one of his most influential campaigns – The Atheist Bus Campaign. It all started with a comedy writer Ariane Sherine who commented in one of her articles that “atheists should advertise too”. Jon soon took the idea to a PledgeBank page and the reaction was like wildfire. Several other atheists agreed and a website dedicated to the cause was created in no time. By the time the campaign ended in April 2009, £153,516.51 managed to be raised in order to post atheism advertisements on London buses.

 

 

Picture an old Maltese lady on the bus stop gasping "X'għarukaza!"

 

The whole point of mentioning this was quite obvious especially seeing that some HR Managers who posed questions on the floor were worried of keeping social media present for staff to use during work hours. The Atheist Bus Campaign is a great way of showing how fast a company’s message can reach people. The trick is to use such tools of great power with skillfulness. Worth recommended that all companies should set up a social media policy and referred to Dell as having an excellent policy companies can follow. There are instances where workers use their personal side of social media to post work related comments, notes or blogs. The reality is that even off work, employees are representing their companies. So as long as companies have a structure where they trust their employees but still have a policy at hand, any breach of trust can be gently disciplined as subject to the company’s social media policy.

Mr Worth gave out too many good pieces of advice for companies to use that I can’t tackle all of them here but I should mention one last thing. Companies should not be afraid of the negative side of social media like angry customers posting negative blogs on a company’s product or service, or a well-known person with many Tweet followers posting a negative remark on a company, or perhaps a YouTube video of an employee being caught misbehaving at work (the latter does not apply to Transport Malta employees – their reputation is already ruined). CEOs should just make sure that employees know how to uniformly react to such comments and should be aware that there are actually companies that offer software (free or trail-version) to help track such comments so as to react immediately to any negative media attention. An example Worth mentioned was Google Alerts, which he encouraged all companies to get for free. This software sends you an email every time your name, your company’s name or any particular search field you enter is mentioned on the internet. Remember, the internet is your friend. So if you’re apprehensive of using social media and other technologies, just know you can use the technologies themselves to help you find the information needed to conquer your fears.

Saviour Balzan

 

Saviour Balzan - Journalist and Editor of MaltaToday

 

Saviour Balzan is the editor of MaltaToday which is one of the most followed Maltese newspapers online. Balzan is known as quite the passionate and ballsy journalist in Malta getting into trouble in the press quite a few times. During his intro session in the workshop Balzan admittedly confessed that he actually didn’t even have any social media accounts and hardly ever read let alone answered his emails. I believe him. When I was about 14 I tried to send him some emails for a project or article (my mind fails me now) and he never replied. I remember, being the moody teen that I was (and I kind of still am), I was offended for quite a while as about that same time I had emailed other newspaper sites which replied immediately. I’m not sure where he lives now but at the time I lived two streets down from him (2 minutes on foot). I remember wanting to knock at his door and give him a piece of my mind! I used to bump into him quite regularly near Maxim’s Pastizzeria in Naxxar mostly on Sundays. I never spoke to him though. But I shall stop this flashback now for fear of sounding like a stalker.

And now I was sitting two rows in front of him listening to him talk about social media in the workplace. Despite not really using social media or understanding technical terms Balzan gave some really interesting information based on his experience in the past ten years of his web portal’s existence. Most of it was related to a news organisation which I found interesting as I work in media but can be applied to different types of organisations.

The most interesting point Balzan mentioned was the collection of market data from social media. At what time do people log in, use and/or comment on your social media during the day? Maybe these are the hours when you should post the most news, articles, product and service updates, competitions and job vacancies. From where are people logging in? The south, the north, central Malta?

And a very funny example he also mentioned was the recent Tiffany Pisani craze. A video posted by the BBC or a Maltese website was quickly linked with ads for all types of Maltese products: holidays in Malta, hotels and even Health Insurance! The amount of traffic viewing the videos at the time meant that all sorts of companies were trying to cash in on this form of social media.

Overview

The session was good but not enough questions were asked. Some managers still seem to stay back from social media but in time it will became the mainstream option even in Malta. As Balzan said “It’s not only a trend, but also about survival and making money.”

However, both speakers admitted in their concluding remarks that social media doesn’t work for everyone and it very much depends on the type of organisation and the information they want to give out. Some company operations are of a very delicate nature and must be monitored carefully or kept to the strictest confidentiality.

“At the end of the day, it depends on what you want. Do you want to be liked or talked about?” – Saviour Balzan

“If you don’t want people to interact and talk about your products online then don’t open a Facebook page for your company.” – Jon Worth

Explore the options and decide what is best for YOUR organisation.

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2 responses to “Harnessing the Power of Social Media in the Workplace

  1. Thanks for your kind words – I of course found out you had written about me thanks to Google Alerts 🙂

    If you do have any further questions you’re most welcome to drop me a line. in addition FHRD might be organising a longer event about this topic in spring 2011.

    • Hello Mr Worth! Thank you for your comment. I tried to cover the event as fully and accurately as possible but we discussed so many things it was impossible. Glad you liked it.

      Today, I had to prepare a powerpoint presentation in 20 minutes for the media organisation I work with. Used a bit of stuff I learned from this session. It’s amazing…I recently organised a competition where people had to Like our Facebook page (Insite Malta) and in 2 weeks we jumped from 1000 likes to 2012 (and rising), plus comments increased ten fold. Good times! Will you be speaking at the FHRD event in April. I might be organising a Media Literacy and Awareness campaign in March 2011. You are most welcome to attend.

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