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“It’ll be easier if I just Dropbox you” is now a relatively familiar phrase to anyone in an office.

It used to be called ‘shadow IT’ but the prevalence of a BYOD culture in work environments means that with every employee working on their own device of preference; sharing documents and working socially, has become the norm.

Pitches are created in Google Docs, updated by all parties concurrently and the age of positive collaboration is upon us, right?

Well, it depends. If a rigid corporate culture is entrenched, the potential benefits of social working can still be a pipe dream.  

But social media has certainly helped speed things up. Marketing initiatives can now be monitored and analysed in real-time. Social is often mooted as an 'always on' opinion poll. Nimble brands can refine and adapt their content and approach instantly in light of customer sentiment.  

It’s clear that social will eventually change corporate culture forever, but what's holding things up? In a word - trust. 

Some businesses are still not willing to share. It goes against the grain. The ‘new transparency’ has seen the previously secret workings of the corporate world become more and more accessible to employees, consumers and the competition.

And it makes some board members uncomfortable, especially among market leaders who might regard this openness as weakness. 

Corporate blogs are seen by some to level the playing field, with privileged information laid bare. Twitter is still mistrusted by some, regarded as a leaking tap of knowledge, nonchalantly divulged to all and sundry.

Instinctively for some, this is a bad thing. Knowledge is power and social media and its tools are thought to be making this knowledge all too accessible. 

Some corporate entities still dislike social because it empowers the individual. And with this knowledge individuals can build their own power base – benefitting themselves rather than the organisation.

But more enlightened companies realise it that if this openness is embraced, and knowledge shared, these individuals will thrive within this open culture. Social working is in their interests, individually and corporately.  

Some businesses will inevitably change quicker than others but others are built on a platform of social working. Any crowdfunded start-up, for instance. This is social working from the ground up, where opened and transparency are ingrained on day one.

Some companies still ban social sites from work computers – an exercise in futility when each employee has direct access to these sites via the device in their pocket.

Again, trust is the key word here. But the movement towards social means that in time, companies that don't embrace social working, collaborative tools and a spirit of openness will be the exception rather than the rule. 

Steve Richards

Published 30 August, 2013 by Steve Richards

Steve Richards is MD of social media agency Yomego and a contributor to Econsultancy.

31 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

I think there needs to be a good degree of control and then a whole lot of trust. The best thing corporations can do is to set a few simple rules and train every member of relevant staff to use it correctly.

The problem is there is always going to be one or two instances where social is used recklessly in a large corporation and that single misuse can result in huge consequences if it picked up by other online media. What gets published on the web is usually there forever in some way.

On a side note I believe email use will eventually die and a social platform will take its place as the main form of corporate communication. As this happens, the boundaries between private conversations and whats posted publicly may get more confusing for employees or it might help them understand the difference more. Either way a bit of software that automatically checks the use of language and sentiment in social media posts would be a cool idea!

almost 3 years ago

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Jon Pickles

I agree with Steve and corporates/organisations are going to have to open up to social. For me, running a company, the issue here is threefold:

1. The employee has to be trusted and if they are the company image then they need to have strong guidelines on the image they present in their social (call it social responsibility).

2. If an individual is socially active then there is a danger that they might become the spokesperson for the company. This could move the focus away from the company directorate and to the individual, empowering that individual in the business.

3. Trust. More and more I hear companies issuing policies that simply suppress their staff. There has to be trust and if you don't trust your staff then you should take that up as an HR issue. I believe that openness is the key but monitoring is also important. When you take on a new member of staff you must consider their social activity and no matter how many disclaimers the staff member needs to be socially responsible.

I would recommend peer reviews on a Monday morning whereby you review what has been tweeted with reference to your company and by the members within it. If something is said that causes alarm bells to ring then discuss it within your teams and address it. Don't leave it until it's too late.In that same meeting why not discuss the social messages you want out there and ensure that anything posted by your team supports the social message.

As the world becomes more socially aware you cannot suppress it you must embrace it - just ensure it's in your line of sight and manage it regularly.

almost 3 years ago

Steve Richards

Steve Richards, MD at Yomego

Thanks, Dean and Jon for your comments. Agree with both of you in the points you make.

The danger, of course, is when trust is abused by a disaffected team member. This is where the company policies would normally kick in but to minimise the chance of this being an issue, people's attitudes to social should be assessed within the recruitment process. There also needs to be a corporate culture where frustrations are voiced readily so small problems don't turn into serious issues.

almost 3 years ago

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spencer Lyon

The difficulty with ill considered Social Media for business is that once the door is opened it's almost impossible to close it again. Instant access to publish thoughts, ideas AND feelings can be a two edged sword.
Twitter and FB are exceptional tools when utilised in the right way with postings quantified and evaluated. However, as we have seen with posting from disenfranchised employees and customers in the past, relating to businesses, companies and or employers, social media can open the flood gates for unwanted posts and therefore press. (At the time of writing this) I can just imagine the tweets from Post Office employees and customers about the potential sell off of 'their' company. With potential to damage share values and company image, the city and managers could be swamped with social media content - welcome or otherwise.
Social media is great but it can also be the preverbal Sword of Damocles, like any other 'investment' it needs to be evaluated as to what is likely to be the long-term and short-term benefit and cost before implementing – it's not a tap that can be easily turned off!

almost 3 years ago

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Lawyer

I think anyone governing the social media account should be given some independence to be creative, otherwise they'll be limited by huge constraints and won't be able to do anything interesting at all.

almost 3 years ago

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