There have been a few articles that have appeared today (2 October) about what happens when using social media in an organisation becomes a problem. I am not going to comment on the specifics of the two cases involving two different police forces but I do have a few thoughts on what it tells us.
This blog has regularly talked about the benefits of using social media particularly in the policing arena. There are some huge benefits to being able to have local conversations, to engage and communicate with communities. But with that comes great responsibility.
Once you have launched staff, including local police officers, into the world of social media including Twitter and Facebook there is no turning back. You have unleashed the social media beast. What is critical in doing this, is to have the right policy and processes in place. It is about having the rig basics in place.
You must know what you want to achieve through the interactions if they are published as part of the corporate voice. The right people need to be involved and need to be given training and support. The processes need to be able to deal with transgressions in an appropriate way. I go back to the 90/10 rule. Ninety per cent of what staff will do will be great and 10 per cent may be a problem but usually not a deliberate attempt to undermine the organisation the posting may be well intentioned. Companies have to be able to deal differently and distinguish between the genuine mistake and the organisational terrorist.
There needs to be plenty of support on a regular basis for staff officially using social media but also a continual dialogue so that things can quickly be discussed before any problems take hold. Tell them when they are out of bounds and explain why.
It all comes down to having a firm foundation with an appropriate social media policy, training, guidance and support but also to keep the approach refreshed and updated. Once you unleash that social media beast you have to work with it rather than try to put it in a cage in the corner.