Managing the risk of social media

You wouldn’t write an uncomplimentary message about one of your colleagues and leave it on your desk for them to find would you? Similarly, if unhappy
at work most people wouldn’t broadcast their lack of motivation openly in the
office. Why then do so many people leave their brains behind when they log on
to social media sites?

The recent case involving teachers who reportedly ridiculed some of the
children that attended their school, calling them ‘inbreds’ is a casing point.
Just why would they think publicly posting messages of this nature on their
profile would not come back to haunt them? Faced with the horror of the damage these kind of stories can bring to organisations it is easy to see why they
respond by withdrawing access for staff. However, as this case shows, the
damage was done outside of work making it impossible to police. So what is the

Draconian solutions are certainly not the way forward. Social media
scares many senior executives because it can be unwieldy and difficult to
predict. It can also be difficult to measure. Clearly this is a crazy stance to
take given the very things that make it risky are the very things that present
massive opportunities for businesses to grow, organisations to develop their
brand or engage with local communities. We’ve tested various types of social
media across local government and the NHS and whilst some don’t quite work,
many do. That is the beauty of it though. When it works it really does work.
For example, last winter we rolled out a winter Facebook page for residents
giving them the latest information on school closures, gritting routes and bin
collections that had all been affected by the snow. Despite last winter being
the worst on record we noticed that calls to our call centre had fallen by
10,000 as people were able to access the information they wanted through the
channel they used every day – Facebook. This saved nearly £7k.

The difference here was that we gave residents something they found
useful. Run a search on any area and you will find Facebook pages and Twitter
profiles of public sector organisations that do nothing but churn out press
releases – this simply fails to understand the purpose of social media. On the
other hand there are plenty of sites that are having a really good go at
talking directly with local people on local issues. Whilst this may create
outcry in the Daily Mail and ranks of the Taxpayers Alliance – quick to jump on
any bandwagon – it is generating real savings. A telephone call costs an
organisation over £2.90 to process – an enquiry via the web or social media
costs 32p. Taking a strategic approach to channel shift is therefore essential
not only to deal with the rapid rise in social media use but also as a great
opportunity to improve access for local people and at the same time save money.

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