Engage or they will engage without you

There have been good articles written recently (The Globe and Mail) that talk about Air Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) labour negotiations and how Facebook played a strong role. Both articles are worth a read, whether you work in a union environment or not. They are proof that social media is a key tool in your organization’s communication. It’s here to stay. Even if you are engaging and facilitating open and relevant discussion, groups will still form (and are forming at this very moment) without your input. At the very least, you need to know about them.

At AHA, we have done a great deal of work studying online behaviour relevant to communication. What is being said and discussed online is a key component for an organization – from building and managing its reputation to dealing with potential issues and crisis communication. However, there are still large organizations that have not yet come to terms with this for some reason. Some aren’t even monitoring what is being said or who is saying it. More and more we are seeing issues come up, not from an outside source, but through online discussions by employees.

Social media gives everyone from employees to unions and association members the opportunity to gather and discuss things virtually. This is a new opportunity to engage with one another and to find like-minded people. And they are going to do it with or without your support, assistance or knowledge.

I spend a great deal of time speaking and working with CEOs, presidents, COOs, VPs and senior communications executives. Just about everyone I have ever worked with wants to do good things for the people that work at their organization. If there is something that people aren’t happy with, they want to know about it. If there is something that needs to be changed, they want it brought to their attention. People matter to them. And yet there is still a challenge, in some areas, in having the senior team see the value of social media or realize that it is now a part of everyday business life.

Imagine if people were encouraged to participate in honest, open and respectful dialogue using social media and discussions could be facilitated rather than controlled (or perceived as being controlled). It is a culture change, but it is one that is coming. And one, I strongly believe that organizations need to embrace.

Wouldn’t you rather be a part of the conversation – even if it was critical or negative – rather than have it go on without your knowledge or input?

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