Guest post: Why some businesses are social media shy

Claire HewittLife 19 Comments

Over the last year I have spoken and worked for a number of business about using social media. Covering small practice, family based businesses, not for profits and large industry.

Most organisations want to be within the social media sphere, they are watching, but they have concerns.

It may surprise you that it is usually not the actual customer that is their biggest worry. A good business has lots of strategies in place to deal with customers that are unhappy or products that don’t work, services that need fixing. Talking with their customers is usually not a major problem. They want to do that.

So, what ‘s the worry?

Social media: retro style



What if staff say the wrong thing in public and are linked to them? How do they control this, how much do they need to be aware of, what are their responsibilities as an organisation and what are those of the staff? Are staff sharing intellectual policies or knowledge on a blog? What are the laws surrounding this new area? What if a staff member accidentally writes something they shouldn’t? What if staff are being bullied?

There is no one answer as this area changes so much. Many organisations have banned staff from using Facebook and Twitter, just like they used to ban email. Yes, it’s true. At one of my first jobs at a major Australian finance institution in the mid ’90s, we were only allowed to email internally, imagine the cost to the business if we were all off emailing friends and mucking around on company time! Banning provides them some control, I am not convinced it works.

Especially if they want to use social media at work, staff will just use their phones and as some Gen Y employees mentioned at a seminar I was at, it would actually be much faster to use the desktop and thus make them more efficient at work rather than sneaking out for a “smoke” or hanging out in the toilets for an extra 10 minutes while they check Twitter.

Businesses are concerned about defamation, bullying, privacy breaches, and how they manage these things. Big corporations have got in early and now have policies and procedures, many of these are online, so if you are a business, no matter what size, go and take a look and get some ideas of how you can manage this.

This Telstra one is full of information and designed to share with their staff, but just go Googling if you are a business and want some information to share with staff. Or, if you have an association or union that represents you, they may also have some tip sheets, policies or guidelines.

If you are a worker, you should also be aware that social media areas, especially Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, are not the place to publicly share things about your work, especially things about people you work with. Public is public, no matter how locked up you have your privacy settings.

Here is one recent example of a man who lost his job thanks to a comment he made on Facebook: One silly comment, and your job is gone.

Claire HewittClaire Hewitt is a marketing consultant who specialises in social media for professional service organisations. After 15 years working within marketing communications for the legal, finance and health sectors, Claire has landed in a world of twitter, blogging, facebook and LinkedIn and enjoys assisting businesses to learn how they too can grow their business by engaging, informing and participating within Social Media. Claire writes her own personal blog at and can be found on twitter @ClaireyHewitt


Editor’s note: I, of course, have long embraced social media for work as wholeheartedly as wine time on a Friday. My husband, who ironically is in the business of communications, has just joined up Twitter. Recently he returned from a big social media conference. I asked him what he learned and he sent me this link. Oh, and he gave me a USB he picked up at one of the exhibition booths. Lucky?

Do you work for an organisation that bans the use of social media? If you have access to social media, is there a policy around that? Have you heard of someone losing their job after an incidence of TUI (Tweeting Under the Influence)? 



Comments 19

  1. This is a great post Claire and it has given me a lot to think about. Love the video and social media is so fascinating to me and especially as a mother I am aware of how much this technology is affecting my children. Some of it is for the good and some of it is very distracting to them. I believe it is important for me to keep up to date with social media just for them and I am trying to teach them as you say, public is public. Once said and shared it is out there.

  2. I can absolutely understand the reluctance of some businesses. But, having worked in HR for the last decade, I can say with absolute certainty that anything to do with employees is a complete minefield!

    Having said that, anything can be done well with good policies and a strong management team in place.

    And a good HR consultant of course. Cough cough. 😉

    1. You are so right Megan, HR teams could really benefit from working with social media experts. To assist with policies, to assist with recruitment and to help reduce the fear of trying to control social media. There is a big gap ready and waiting just for you!

  3. Hi Claire,

    Great to meet you here via Nikki:)

    I think fear of the unknown is a big problem too as well as the issues you describe here which are really about loss of control.

    It’s interesting because if companies treated their workers well and made them feel valued they wouldn’t have to worry about their employees dissing them anywhere would they?

    1. hi Annabel,

      Control is certainly an issue, as is education, generally they are slowly trying to get to grips about how best to use social media as a business and so they are not sure what the best practice for staff is.

      It is a shame that the fear of what might happen prevents so many from giving social media a go, as with email, I am sure this will change too.

      It is an exciting time for us all to be working in this space.

  4. I consult to large organisations about communications – internally and externally. Some large companies with progressive views on employee communications (ie. they ‘get’ it) have long yearned for a ‘feedback’ mechanism to empower their people to tell the bosses what they think so they feel they are positively influencing the direction of the business. These companies who ‘get it’ are lapping up social media. I’ve been fortunate to work with professional services firm Deloitte, and they wholeheartedly embraced social media, seeking out their ‘digital natives’ to train up their ‘digital dinosaurs’. They also use Yammer (internal version of Twitter) to share views and source innovative and fresh ideas. Yes, there most definitely is a risk (requiring policies like the one you referred to), but it’s the same risk that applies to a staff member sharing an opinion at a dinner party or a pub. As more companies feel the ‘democratising’ effect social media has on big business, not just countries, more will join the game. Great post Claire.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I would be interested to hear more about how much you think Yammer works within organizations. It was used for over 12 months in one firm I was with, but didn’t really assist too much, most execs found they just wanted to use email, forgot passwords and didn’t open documents that were shared on Yammer…would love to hear about it working more effectively.

      1. I think the success of Yammer within an organisation depends a lot of the company’s leadership. Deloitte’s CEO is an active user of Yammer – he uses it to ask employee’s for their opinions, and to also share information he may have picked up at either leadership forums, or in his own readings. Deloitte has a great informal internal digital mentoring programme to assist any ‘change resistant’ executives get their head around something like Yammer. It’s great seeing digital dinosaurs converted into digital addicts. I also think the success of Yammer depends on the company’s culture and workforce. Given the nature of their business (advising other businesses how to succeed) Deloitte people are keen to be seen as leaders in thought leadership – they use Yammer really effectively to share and debate innovation. Yes – the typical internal communication issues remain (reluctance to move away from email is definitely one) but I think the more carefully something like Yammer is introduced to a culture (the how and the why), the more effectively these issues can be managed. Drop me an email if you’d like to chat more! (I could go on, and on, and on…) 🙂

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