Social media needs to be about policy not politics

Don't underestimate the value of experience when it comes to social media, says Mark Samuels.

I was at an event recently where I overheard an IT executive declaring proudly how an intern was in charge of his firm’s social media policy. A woman, who also overheard the boastful executive, turned to her colleague and said: “So what? We do that, too.”

I’m not sure who was worse: the first executive openly talking about his firm’s social media policy, or the second executive who was eager to show off at the other guy’s expense. But I do know one thing: both of these executives, who work for large organisations, are deeply misguided.

There is a belief that the new generation of workers is more tech-savvy than their experienced colleagues. These digital natives, so the theory goes, only know collaboration. They have grown up using technology and have so much to show the IT-averse individuals who have hung around the office since the days of fax machines and the screeching modem.

It is a theory I don’t buy into. For a start, it’s ageist. Since when did experience count for nothing? Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you know nothing about technology. Even if you don’t, like my dad, it doesn’t mean you can’t be wise in other ways. While I will shout my opinions at the earliest opportunity, my ‘old’ man will take a more reasoned approach.

Reason, you see, comes with experience. Yet executives like those above have decided, in their infinite wisdom, that social media is scary, silly and something that can only be understood by young people. As a result, reasoned executives are making unreasonable judgements and passing control of key communication channels to inexperienced people.

Of course, your business might get lucky. You might pass social media control to a canny individual who is able to create a persona that is engaging and interesting. The individual might even give your brand an amusing online presence.

But then your business might pass the keys and get unlucky. You might give control to a total idiot who starts tweeting irrelevant and offensive junk. It’s only social media, so what does it matter, though, right?

Wrong - it matters when thousands of people start reading the stream of consciousness associated to your Twitter feed and start questioning the business model of your brand.

That message is so simple that a column to explain its importance would seem superfluous. Yet the exchange at the top of this piece would suggest otherwise.

So, here’s a simple mantra, in far less than 140 characters, that even the most unreasonable of executives should be able to comprehend: only let experienced professionals control your social media policy.

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