As much as you think blogging and social networking are mainstream, corporate America has not caught up quite yet. Many companies are fearful that they are losing control of their brand — and they are. Companies are trying to put together social media guidelines as quickly as possible, so that employees know what they can and cannot say online, concerning their brand. You’ve probably seen a blog with a disclaimer and blown it off like it didn’t exist and I don’t blame you. Everything you say and do, whether online of offline, is a reflection of your brand and all brands you’re associated with, such as a nonprofit you are volunteering for, your company and even your friends. Most companies are top-down, which means if executives are fearful of social media, then there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to blog or share information about the company online. This, of course, is an opportunity cost because talent is the most important corporate asset!
The research says a lot
Companies haven’t completely embraced social media and some never will. Executives won’t even accept friend requests on Facebook or LinkedIn and most aren’t ever going to use Twitter. IT departments block many sites, including social networks because there is a security risk associated with them. Also, any company with a lot of classified information, in certain industries like legal, doesn’t permit social networking use at all. A lot of journalists aren’t even allowed to have a blog or a website. As you can see from these statistics, there are a lot of hurdles corporations need to get over for social media to become the basis of how business is run.
- 20% increase in companies blocking social media sites (ScanSafe, August 2009)
- 100% of CEOs admit to frequently thinking about their company’s reputation (Weber Shandwick, February 2009)
- 8% of companies have fired people for their social networking use (Proofpoint, August 2009)
- Social networking costs firms 1.5% of productivity (Nucleus Research, July 2009)
- 71% of IT departments block users from social networking (AMA, July 2009)
- 80% of executives are fearful of social networking risks (Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, July 2009)
Should you work for a company that doesn’t let you build your brand?
No! If a company doesn’t let you build your personal brand using social media tools, your career will be sabotaged because you’ll lose your voice (a freedom that everyone should have). Aside from the first amendment, if your voice isn’t heard, then you suffer a competitive disadvantage because there are millions of other voices out there.
Companies are afraid to lose their employees to competition, which is one reason why they are afraid of employees building their own brands. When employees start blogging and gain visibility through search engines and social networks, they become more marketable and may be recruited by another company. Let’s be honest though; if a company doesn’t allow their employees to use social media, and another company does, wouldn’t it be smarter for employees to change companies? Your brand and online network is your insurance against possibly losing your job in the future. It’s all you’ve got. Make sure you work for a company that supports your career, not just their own agenda.
Companies benefit from your brand
Companies need to understand quickly that their employees can actually help their organization, even when not in the office. A single employee now can pass a corporate message (or even a press release) to the outside world, at a fast space, while maintaining consistency. Employees can also safeguard the corporate brand by monitoring brand mentions on social networks and Google. Helpful employees might take it a step further and answer people’s questions about products and services. Companies don’t even have to pay higher salaries right now to have their employee evangelists support their cause. All it takes is empowerment and a little bit of trust!