Best Business-to-Business Facts About Social Media Use

In Stowe Boyd’s interesting post on social media boundaries titled, “In Texas, You’re On Your Own” he lists a few truisms that resonate with a once-upon-a-time Texan who misses many parts of the state’s unique brand of togetherness:

First, for employers:

  • You shouldn’t fire employees who are expressing lawful opinions that you do not agree with, even if you can. And based on where you are sited, or where your employees work, maybe you can’t. It’s a rotten world if every Republican CEO can fire Democrat employees, and vice versa.
  • The NLRA needs to be examined in detail, and you should tailor social media policy documents to specifically state what the NLRA does and does not allow you to do, as an employer, and what the rights of workers are. Vague exhortations about professionalism are likely to be no help in a NLRB issue.

Stowe examines another post by Jon Hyman, Does your social media policy educate about being “profersonal?” who provides an anecdotal look at how folks, and their employers, might all get along, from a lawyer’s point-of-view. Hyman provides some semi-sage advice from his legal idea of what folks ought to do to avoid having to deal with folks like him:

“Hyman then concludes with the most blatantly reactionary summing up imaginable:”

What’s the real lesson here? Social media is an evolving communication tool. Employees have not yet figured out what it means to be “profersonal.” Employees need to realize that anything they say online can impact their professional persona, and that every negative or offensive statement could lead to discipline or termination (even if employers can overreact in these situations). Until people fully understand that social media is erasing (has erased?) the line between the personal and the professional, these issues will continue to arise. It is our job as employers to help educate our employees about living in a “profersonal” world, even at the risk of offending the NLRB’s prickly sensitivities.

Prickly sensitivities aside, on the B2B side of things, we have quietly worked with many corporations to get their message out to their audience from both a top-down and bottom-up perspective. NH has always believed that the message coming from both angles was important to our client’s customers, the media and those considering their technologies. Since the vast majority of our clients provide a business-to-business range of products and services, no voice for the consumer market has been seriously considered. Our biggest issue in doing this is building trust between the IT buyers and the folks within companies who speak the same language.

Harmonic convergence has not always been evident, but we’ve seen few occasions where bloggers have been threatened by job loss or political incursions into management’s druthers. Since bottom-up speak has been viewed over the decades as dangerous by the legal icons inside every large technology company, vetting the columns and parsing the words has been excruciating at times. For starters, lawyers and IT folks don’t share the same lexicon or world view on what customers, potential and real, need to know and when they need to know it. Mix into that the marketing folks, whose territories have been invaded, and you often end up with a stalemate. Nothing is worse to put all the time and money it takes to build the infrastructure, and end up with nothing.

Whether you’re in Texas or Hawaii, opinions often are not necessary when it comes to getting your message out across the social landscape. Politics are never necessary in the social sphere any more than they are at trade shows and for that you can be sure. Customers, new and old, really want to know how technologies like ERP, CRM and SAAS are going to affect their jobs, their lives and their bottom lines. If publishing the facts about a disaster is looming on the company’s horizon, it’s always best to get out in front of it and address the solutions, so that users can see how you handle it. You will find that being up front about problems may be your best campaign slogans and you will find that customers are your best advocate when the trust that you aren’t going to hide negatives.

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