In last week’s blog, I looked at the damage social networking could do to your brand if put into the wrong hands.
This week, I’m going to look at the notion of an organisation auspicing or managing a social networking Group.
If you’ve just tuned in, my central premise is that many organisations are being blinded by social networking science. They are turning a very blind eye to business fundamentals in the belief that ‘this is how it’s done these days’.
Sign up for SmartCompany newsletter.
Free to your inbox every weekday
But I beg to differ. I maintain that social networking is simply a channel through which an organisation communicates. The normal rules of marketing, public relations, public affairs, law and corporate governance still remain, even if they are a little warped by this brave new way of communicating.
Of course the law may not have completely caught up with the medium as yet, but mark my words, when push comes to shove, I reckon that many a good judge will still recognise that libel is libel, slander is slander, defamation is defamation and duty of care is duty of care, even if it occurs via the warts-and-all medium of social networking.
Government auspiced abuse
There are dozens if not hundreds of social networking groups being offered and managed by government departments and other taxpayer-funded organisations. But as reported here recently, some of these have little in the way of the normal safeguards one might expect of the Office of the Crown.
Members of one such business group have claimed to be trolled, bullied and had their personal safety threatened.
To me, the fact that business operators and taxpayers are experiencing this kind of abuse is not only a gross abuse of taxpayers funds, it could leave such departments exposed legally.
It only takes one aggrieved member to seek legal recourse over potential damage done to their business or personal reputation by a competitor or other business enemy residing in one or more of these groups.
Blinded by the blight
But what continues to astound me is that the administrators of some of these groups appear to be completely oblivious to the kinds of tactics that some maverick business operators will try on.
A range of trolling tactics that there are no doubt new terms for, are common in many social networks. But somehow they slip through the safety nets of the administrators, presumably in the name of ‘free speech’.
Surely an option is to simply leave these groups as many business operators have?
Yes, that’s the simple solution, but it means that the trolls in these groups have achieved their objective of forcing you to do just that.
It also means that good business operators miss out on the many benefits these groups can provide.
Technophobia stifles senior execs
I also suspect that there is a kind of technophobia occurring in organisations that, if not condone this unacceptable behaviour, certainly turn a blind eye to it.
I feel that a number of senior executives are so lacking in understanding of the internet and in particular social networking, that they are essentially eschewing responsibility by passing it on to quite junior staff members to whom the medium is far more familiar.
And rather than expose their incompetence with the medium by becoming too involved in the supervision of something they know so little about and in turn have their authority challenged, they are giving these staff pretty much a free rein in managing these areas.
And hence the lack of the kind of corporate governance normally required of such organisations.
All in good time
In time the juniors will eventually earn their stripes and move into these senior positions. Or alternatively these organisations will realise that more senior supervision of these activities is necessary.
But till then, many social networking departments appear to be on shaky ground when it comes to providing the kind of corporate governance that many of their auspice organisations really have an obligation to be demonstrating.
It’s yet another example of the ‘digital delusion’ organisations large and small are suffering in the face of the onslaught brought about by the speed of communications development and change.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.