Why IT aren’t the people to run your Twitter account
"Our IT guy has been looking after our social media strategy," grumbled the boss of a medium-sized business, "we don't really know much about that stuff."
In most offices anything that vaguely involves electricity gets flicked to the IT guru – setting up a phone's speed dial, clearing a jammed photocopier or resetting the burglar alarm are all things tech support gets called to fix. They breathe a sigh of relief that electric typewriters aren't around anymore.
When the internet first came along, it was the techs who were asked to set company websites – which is like asking your plumber to run a cafe because making coffee involves water.
Of course, some IT folk turned out to be good at designing websites – just as some plumbers turn out to be world class baristas – but it's a gamble finding out whether your computer guru is also a design god and your plumber brews up a mean ristretto.
Today, the poor tech support teams in the less proactive organisations find themselves lumbered with the social media duties, something most of them don't care about and barely understand themselves. Otherwise one of the young staff members is given it, often ending up with the office intern.
For those businesses, the problem is the corporate social media accounts are now the shop front along with customer support and – with most journalists using social media – the PR department as well.
The PR role is important as increasingly headlines are being made by what people and organisations put online as we saw with the recent #qantasluxury Twitter debacle. Decisions about what a business posts to Facebook, Twitter or the corporate blog has a direct impact on customer service, marketing or whatever field is being discussed.
Social media and the web can’t be seen as isolated from the rest of the business; treating the web as a stand alone toy or a channel only used by Gen-Ys is misunderstanding how pervasive the net has become.
A common mistake made by businesses is giving key roles to the people least suited to the role; we’ve all encountered front desk staff who’ve been disinterested and rude whose qualifications have either been they are pretty or have been there for years.
Dumping the social media or digital duties on the geeks or Gen Ys is the modern equivalent of having Grumpy Grace or Cranky Charles answering the phones or greeting customers. The difference is a bad impression online can be seen by the world.
If you're happy with your geeks looking after your media relations, sales and customer support then ask the IT department to look after the website and social media. Otherwise, you might want to take things a bit more seriously.
Paul Wallbank is one of Australia's leading experts on how industries and societies are changing in this connected, globalised era. When he isn't explaining technology issues, he helps businesses and community organisations find opportunities in the new economy.