It’s not a revelation to observe that public relations people often have an adversarial relationship with the legal department of any large organization. By nature, the two fields are set in opposition: public relations pushing to disclose, and legal pushing to conceal.
Too often, unfortunately, the legal department wins out when disputes arise as the legal profession tends to be respected as far more credible than PR. That doesn’t mean legal is right all (or even most) of the time.
Recently a local paper featured a live chat with an employment law professional and a staffer of a state legislator who proposed barring employers from accessing employee social networking profile data. As is the case with most ham-fisted attempts by lawyers/legislators to insert themselves into the social media landscape, both the law (House Bill 5523: Social Network Account Privacy Act) and the legal advice for employers are wrong.
While part of House Bill 5523 is reasonable (protecting userid/password information from employers) – it’s superfluous political posturing because the act of an employer demanding access to an employee’s Facebook account is already illegal: it’s identity theft (and it’s also prohibited by Facebook’s policies).
What I disagreed with most was the legal advice for employers, which was essentially to avoid using the Internet and social media to search for information on prospective employees. The rationale given for this was the possibility that one could uncover information about a prospect (such as a pending pregnancy, age or disability) that one would have to prove they didn’t use this information in a decision not to hire.
There are two problems with that advice:
1) Not hiring someone due to pregnancy, age, or a medical condition happens regardless of the use of social media to find that information out. When you interview someone in person, those things become readily-apparent whether or not you used social media to weed people out.
Abstaining from social media searches wouldn’t insulate anyone from allegations of bias.
2) There’s actually a very good case to be made that investigating employees via social media actually PROTECTS employers from allegations of discriminatory hiring. For starters, it allows an employer to get a sense of someone’s fluency with technology (essential in the workplace today).
Depending how active people are online, it can also provide insight into their critical thinking process, how active they are in the community, and what their communication skills are … all things that are perfectly reasonable to use in not hiring someone.
If you need an excuse not to interview or hire someone, odds are the Internet can provide ample legal justification.
Sometimes considering an alternate perspective to the legal one provides valuable insight. I wish more corporate leadership would try it.
I was fortunate to work with a great team of people who helped Family Promise of Grand Rapids win Toyota’s “100 Cars for Good” competition this year (a full case study is available here). Yesterday, the organization took receipt of the car which was another great public relations opportunity from the competition (which has given the organization a great platform to reach more members of the community).
West Michigan charity takes delivery of Toyota truck it won through Facebook contest
By Jim Harger | Grand Rapids Press | on October 26, 2012 at 11:49 AM
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Family Promise of Grand Rapids took delivery of its new Toyota Tundra pickup this week thanks to its success in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good competition earlier this year. (More)
“Call me crazy, but I am not on Facebook. That’s strange for somebody my age and stranger still for somebody who belongs to a group of writers here at UVenus who are masters at using social media.”
I have two issues with the article:
- You’re not a master of using social media if you’re not on Facebook.
- It’s impossible to stay off Facebook.
Permit me to explain…
1. Mastery of Social Media
You’ll have to forgive me if I’m touchy about the subject of social media mastery. A primary means I make my living is through my understanding of social media, and my ability to ply my trade is substantially hampered by people who falsely claim to be experts like me. Regrettably the learning curve with SM is so great that the average person often isn’t able to distinguish good practice from bad practice. I’m hardly alone – virtually every profession or area of technical expertise faces this problem.
The 800-lb Blue Gorilla in the Room
Facebook is easily the most massive social networking site world-wide – particularly in the West. Right now they’re coming up on one BILLION users – or one 1/6 of the planet. Mastering social media inherently requires a thorough understanding of Facebook given its dominance. To be a social media expert and have no ongoing hands-on experience with its most key player is the equivalent of attaining a Master of Film Theory degree without learning anything about Sergei Eisenstein.
Social Media’s Shifting Sands
Online the only constant is change. As such, remaining a master of social media means constantly learning, growing and evolving with platforms.
To wit: every single social media presentation I do is different. I often stay up late into the night before a presentation revising it with the developments that happened that day. I even modified a recent preso I did for Crime Stoppers International from one day to the next because the social media world had changed significantly overnight.
Professor Jafar qualifies my first assertion by arguing in her article that Facebook nurtures two characteristics of McDonaldization (efficiency and calculability) that are harmful. Hopefully Professor Jafar is heartened by the fact that we as a society have evolved away from those measures precisely because of the effect of McDonaldization.
Social media experts AND Facebook know that impersonal shotgun blasts of information are far less effective than one-on-one engagement and discourage it (in the case of Facebook, its algorithms will de-prioritize that content so it shows up in the newsfeeds of fewer users). Even casual users of Facebook are opening their eyes to this reality, and todays’ students are getting better at communicating differently to different audiences.
With respect to calculability, virtually everyone from tweens to multinational corporations know that sheer numbers don’t matter online. Actual interactions and action are what matters – and those qualities are rarely present in inflated numbers of fans or friends.
2. You ARE on Facebook
Whether or not you want to be, you likely are on Facebook already.
If you know anyone who is on FB (or possibly even people who don’t know you), doubtless they’ve uploaded photos of you, updates about you, and if you’re a publisher of content like Jafar – that is being shared, liked, and commented on in Facebook. Institutions or events also publish content about us – like TEDx Conferences:
At the very least every web-accessible digital snippet about you is searchable through Facebook:
The ubiquity of recording equipment in society means that there is constantly digital documentation of our behavior. We’re able to ignore this reality on a daily basis because it’s usually never interesting. That changes the minute we do something sensational or outstanding in either a positive or negative sense.
In Professor Jafar’s case – this likely takes the form of her students discussing what an excellent teacher she is. Right now these wall posts, photos and posts are mostly unsearchable in Facebook – but that will invariably change as our notions of privacy evolve and become more permissive (a massive shift in public opinion that Pew has documented). The pressure Facebook is under to monetize its users will only accelerate this trend.
Don’t get me wrong – Facebook should give everyone pause with respect to their privacy. They’ve made a number of moves over the years that remove control from their users over what is shared about them. A decade ago, staying off a social networking site was a viable pursuit, but we’ve reached a saturation point where that is no longer the case.
The solution is not to abstain – it is to engage.
When you refuse to engage digitally (be it on Facebook or the web in general) you accomplish two things:
- you lose the opportunity to monitor what is said about you and…
- you give up the ability to contribute to the conversation about you.
Loathe as I am to do it, I’m going to jump on the dogpile over University of Iowa student Cathryn Sloane’s misguided (and fact-bereft) post “Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25.”
In it, Sloane argues that growing up with the nascent technologies lends young people a preternatural understanding of them that older people cannot grasp (as they are moored in old ways of thinking that cannot give transcendent insight). As someone who just edged out of the 25-34 age group, the essay stung a bit.
It’s down on all fours with arguing that growing up with the Blu-ray video format means Hollywood should only hire directors under 25.
I’ll readily concede that age can sometimes hinder people from grasping new ways to use new technologies. However, the idea that young people have a monopoly on creativity or tech-savvy is completely disputed by the facts.
As you’re likely aware, recently Facebook changed the email settings of all users so that the email they signed up with is no longer visible – replaced by their @facebook.com email address. The company rolled out an email service back in 2010. My guess is that adoption was lagging so given the new pressure they’re under as a result of their IPO to monetize the service, they made the switch.
They’re perfectly entitled to do this; after all they’re a private company providing a free service to users.
HOWEVER, what you’re ENTITLED to do and what you SHOULD do are two completely different things.
MOREOVER, WE do not control the language – THE PEOPLE DO (in this case, the users). Read more…
Earlier today, Sam Laird of Mashable wrote an article asking “Does Every Employee Need Social Media Training?”
Absolutely. All employees are brand ambassadors whether they want to be or not. There’s no way to stop information from flowing in or out of an organization. Social media policies are, by their very nature, reactive so by the time they come into play the damage is already done.
The only way to get ahead of (and hopefully avoid) the negative consequences of a radically-transparent world is to make sure employees are aware of the dynamics of the new world we live in where Internet connectivity is ubiquitous and everyone has a multimedia studio in their phone.
Focusing myopically on the negative possibilities in social media is like focusing only on the villains in comic books. They’re only part of the equation (and often easily vanquished).
The flip side of the worry over employees and social media is that most organizations are missing out on POSITIVE opportunities (which are far more numerous than the negatives). Properly-focused and empowered, employees can wield the power of social media for an organization’s benefit (improving workflow, engaging customers, and sharing the stories that build a brand).
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel: there are loads of infographics, charts, checklists, fliers, videos and other resources a simple Google search away and the training can be as simple as an informal jam session that starts with you asking what employees’ questions are and building the conversation from there.
A disturbing trend has ramped up over the past couple of years: employers demanding the login credentials for the Facebook accounts of their employees. Another example of this cretinism reared its ugly head here in Cassopolis, Michigan at Lewis Cass Intermediate School District where teacher’s aide Kimberly Hester was fired for refusing to cough up her password to administrators after posting a nondescript and safe-for-work photo of a co-worker’s pants around her ankles.
What makes this case doubly-stupid is that was completely unnecessary: if the school needed documentation of the alleged transgression, it could have taken a screen capture from the account of the local parent who raised the issue with the administration in the first place.
Demanding the Facebook credentials of an employee is just as outlandishly-inappropriate as demanding the login credentials for an employee’s online banking account. Employers should consider such a request with exactly the same level of caution (because they could open themselves up for liability).
Here’s why: Read more…
By now everyone with access to the Internet (and even a lot of people who don’t) are aware that Facebook filed for an Initial Public Offering.
If every other social networking platform in the history of the web is a guide, this signals the beginning of the end for Facebook. Private corporations are freer from the pressure to drum up wads of cash in the short term than publicly-traded companies. They are also more resilient in the face of economic challenges than private companies because they can absorb a period of shrinking profits instead of scrambling to implement drastic measure (like mass layoffs) to quickly cook the books for a pennywise short term jump in profits.
Here’s why Facebook will suffer from the rush to monetize the gigantic community of users it has amassed: Read more…
"...and you shall have no pie."As my parents tell it, when I was an infant my first word wasn't a word - it was an entire sentence. Very little has changed.
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