As managers seek to introduce social media tools into their workplaces, they should forgo large-scale initiatives or expensive platforms and instead focus on lots of small changes. The best way to be successful at bringing social media into business is to do it incrementally. People need to buy into the new platforms and engage with them gradually. Companies should use inexpensive or free tools to begin with and see how they work, and observe if and how employees utilize them. Companies should allow time to communicate where the company is headed with social media, enlist people to help with this, and encourage them to talk to their peers. Managers need to focus on over-communication, light management, and flexible policies as these initiatives get off the ground.
Another thing that managers will have to deal with once social media tools are up and running in their organizations is criticism. Criticism will come from both customers and from within the organization itself. There is something about the online world that makes people less restrained than they would be under normal circumstances. It is frightening for managers to see critical things posted about them or their products in such a public space. The best way to handle this is by both taking it seriously and letting it go. Being seen to judge correctly when and how to intervene can be a very powerful way of establishing credibility and trust online. Companies should engage with those with whom they have concerns and turn the criticism into an opportunity to build a relationship or correct an oversight.
Defensiveness is especially harmful when dealing with online customer criticism. The best way to handle a disaster is to have the online world view the company fairly and honestly. This will happen if concerns are addressed in a timely fashion with humility. If the wrong is corrected it can actually be an opportunity to strengthen and build an organization’s brand. Taking part in the conversation allows customers to directly communicate with the organization, and this is a good thing even if it is about a problem. Above all, companies should deal with criticism themselves rather than hire a firm to do it for them. Organizations need to be honest and directly engage with their consumers, especially on the web.
Security can be an issue when companies introduce social media tools into their workplaces. Upper management might worry that access to these tools at work makes it easier for employees to be indiscreet and share inappropriate information. Many companies place myriad restrictions on web use while at work. Businesses would be wiser to educate their employees about what is beneficial for the company and what is risky. Helping people learn better judgment will help them take ownership of their actions and reduce company risk. The best way to be safe is to be open. Anything that is written on a computer could be seen at some point by someone else. By being more open in a business context greater accountability and strength is created.