Sunday, April 13th, 2014
Following this year’s eCampaigning Forum in Oxford, I find myself revisiting a perennial ECF question: social media policies. I’ve developed a simple flowchart tool to help your organisation decide if a social media policy is indeed right for you.
Jokes aside, I stand by this little doodle, in all its simplicity.
Like concepts of accountability and order more generally, the idea that social media ‘best practice’ is the result of some people telling everyone else what they can and can’t do is absurd and elitist… and is the kind of organisational behaviour that discourages actual ownership and responsibility amongst those doing the work, creating the very problems it tries to mitigate against.
What I tend to propose as an alternative, is simply having regular conversations amongst the responsible adults the organisation has hired, for whom social media will be a part of their jobs. You can all raise the thorny issues that the internet will inevitably throw in all of your collective faces, and work together to figure out what the best ways of handling these things are.
When the context shifts and a new thorny issue arises, whoever is facing it should be able to deal with it at the time. Then you can use it as an reason to revisit the discussion, acknowledging that you hadn’t predicted whatever has come up, but can work together once again to adapt the shared understanding of how to handle challenges.
The underpinning point here is that most organisational social media policies are based on a premise of mistrust – that staff will mess things up if given half-a-chance to do so. If this is truly the case, social media is not your problem – your hiring and/or management practices are.
When we have the chance to shape a process together, we both bring new perspectives into the fold and tend to feel more invested in whatever decisions or directions emerge. Collective process improves our sense of agency, responsibility and pride in our work.
So, like with so many organisational policies, skip the document, have the conversation. It may be the first step to unleashing some of the latent online potential our organisational structures have been restraining for so long!
I wrote a book called Anarchists in the Boardroom: How social media and social movements can help your organisation to be more like people. You can order it here.