“To Blog, or Not to Blog…To Tweet or Not to Tweet”? – That is the question! (Or is it)?

I was recently reminded of a quote from Hamlet; “To be, or not to be” which seems appropriate for my post, which is an attempt to look at the argument for and against the use of Social Media (blogs in particular) within a corporate or business environment.

From a personal (non-work related) perspective it now seems to be the “in” thing to have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and the list goes on and on; but from a business perspective it’s a totally different ball-game. As a keen (albeit considerably amateur) blogger and a social media addict outside of work (yep I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Foursquare, Klout and the list goes on and on….but I’m getting distracted. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel lucky that I understand and appreciate both sides of the argument.

One Question, however, does keep bugging me; and that’s why? Is it wrong to use Social Media in a corporate environment? Are we simply embracing change or are we failing to see where our personal lives should end and our work lives should begin? Or are we missing the point entirely?

There is evidence to suggest that there are still very strong debates within many businesses as to whether or not Social Media; but in particular – blogs should have a role to play in our day-to-day working lives; as part of a professional business environment.

Everything is changing; consumers are changing – we want more for less and we want it yesterday, we now regularly seek out feedback and recommendations on goods and services online and we have seen many instances recently of stories crossing the globe in seconds through many different social media channels. Businesses are adapting too; but is it a conscious choice or is it because “we have to”?

The world and environment in which business now operate is very volatile, and trends can change at the drop of a hat. If  we (businesses) want to remain viable we have to change with it. For many around us, one significant change has been the adoption and regular use of Digital and Social Media as a method of communicating with both internal and external stakeholders. For many companies (so far) this has seen a significant increase in the use of social media such as Linkedin and personal blogs; most notably by members of the Senior Leadership teams as a tool to communicate business success to employees.

Check out these articles which I think do a great job of highlighting some potential business benefits derived through the use of social media; here and here.

Now that I’ve got back off my high horse; it seems only right and fair to look at the potential pitfalls of businesses using Social Media so as to present a balanced argument. I know that within the company that I work for in particular that there are some significant concerns and reservations (in many cases quite rightly so) about the risks in particular the potential for damage to our reputation should someone mis-understand or mis-represent the business in any way. But will banning all forms of Social Media within the workplace protect us from potential damage to our reputation?

My employer is already making great attempts to move with the times and change, and I’m personally very encouraged by the number of senior leaders who are incorporating blogs and Social Media into the way they do business.

My personal view is that Social Media and blogs have a role to play and a place within a business; if used appropriately. Acceptable use needs to be clearly defined and communicated so that employees know what is and is not acceptable, and processes put in place to encourage use, as well as sanctions for those that mis-use.

In my view, Social Media and blogs in particular are great communication tools; facilitate open networking; encourage open and honest discussion and leverage low cost technology; the use of which like breathing to many – it has become second nature.

I can’t help but wonder if blogs have a more significant role to play? Are we missing out on an opportunity to interact with and seek real feedback from our customers (past, present and future), suppliers, prospective partners, employees or even the media because of our apparent fear of the world of Social Media? There are numerous examples of companies that have (and continue) to successfully use blogs as part of their communications arsenal without any damage to reputation or ability to win business; even some government departments have joined the blog-o-sphere. So why are some businesses still so reluctant?

I’m left constantly questioning the role that social media can and should play within a business; I find it encouraging that so many people are using blogs both internally (within the company I work for) and externally– it is in my view a very positive step in the right direction, shows great effort to adapt and to meet the needs and demands of the new business environment we all find ourselves operating in and also showing willingness to embrace change.

But do we need to do more?

How would William Shakespeare would view the world of blogging if he were still alive today?

Food for thought?

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