Musthafa Ebadi
Organizations Should Embrace Social Media Not Ban It
by Musthafa Ebadi on September 30th, 2011

The use of Social Media is one of the major conundrums that businesses are faced with today. While almost every organization’s marketing department is tasked with maximizing the potential of websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to drive business and generate leads, majority of organizations are nervous about what their workforce might post on these “express yourself” forums. And it looks like that these concerns are affecting the Major Sports leagues of North America.
The National Football League has already banned the use of social media on game day, the NBA prohibits such activity for hours before, during and after games and last week the NHL also followed the suit.
The NHL distributed social media policy to all 30 teams which included game-day restrictions for hockey personnel and players. This media policy is followed a day after the Philadelphia Flyers circulated a memo with rules and restrictions for their players and personnel use of social media.
The NHL’s official policy on social media institutes a blackout for players from two hours before game-time to the finish of their media interviews following the game. The blackout also extends to team personnel who are banned tweeting from 11 a.m. on game days through the post-game interviews.

While there are numerous groups inside and outside NHL, including some very active players, supporting this decision I believe NHL is making a mistake with this decision. I am a big believer that every organization should not only allow their employees to use the social media but they should also embrace it albeit one condition – use common sense before posting.
I am also a big believer that everything we say, do, support, believe “Has a Why”? Why I believe that organizations should embrace social media is because it is gradually but surely becoming parts of our daily life.

The current generation and next generations of workforce have social media as part of their daily lives.

The e-commerce industry is using social media to its fullest extent, and smartphones are no longer a luxury to have but a necessity.

Another reason why I support embracing Social Media is the first word of this two letter noun. Its Social. Moving forward everyone’s family, friends, and acquaintances would be using these platforms and if you restrict them you would be fighting a battle with the most important part of your organization – your people.

Today’s social media is not different than emails and cellphones of early 2000s which at the time was a breakthrough revolution in how we communicate.
Now while I am a big supporter of use of social media in businesses I also understand the risk it poses if all of a sudden you have leaks of sensitive information or your own people bad mouthing you. And that’s what you should guard against – lack of common sense, not guard use of social media.
As leaders the onus is on us to educate our workforce on what is appropriate and what is not, train them on guidelines around internal and external communication, and use this opportunity to further develop them as professionals.

Of course there will be growing pains while your people are in the process of learning what is appropriate to post and what is not. For example what prompted the Philadelphia Flyers to institute a social media polity was one of their players tweeting he will not be playing in a game against Washington Capitals. Their General Manager played an instrumental role in supporting this policy and was quoted “I don’t want players "tweeting about what they had for breakfast".

If I was incharge of Flyers instead of banning the use of social media I would have used this example as a constructive feedback to all our personnel on how these type of tweets usually can result in a strategic advantage to their opponents. Infact since NHL is struggling to gain entertainment marketshare in the United States I do want my players to tweet what they had for breakfast since drives accessibility and builds relationship with the fans.

Now I also understand that you might have some negative employees that will do nothing but try to bad mouth, de-value, and bring a bad name to your organization. Again the onus is on us to coach them regularly and provide them the support & guidance, and try to address the concerns which are contributing to their pessimism. The negative people that I have led on my teams are so because they are misguided, have lacked leadership guidance, and were under the impression that there is no outlet that can address their concerns. I can proudly say that I have managed to turn around majority of them.

However you will also encounter people who are yet to mature, will always be negative, will have other agendas, and no matter how much you support or guide them they will not change. They usually represent few people of your entire workforce and instead of instituting a policy to guide against their antics you should instead part ways with them. The majority should never suffer from a policy/procedure instituted to keep few individuals in check.

The beauty of social media is its appeal to express freely, its reach, and its impact. Social media is a forum where people can express their point of views, a place to share your ideas, and a place reachout and connect. And if we want to stay with our times or get a head of it then we should allow it in its entirety but with common sense.

Thanks for reading!

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