5 arguments for organizations to stop blocking social media sites

We do a fair amount of speaking, often to professionals who work for government-run departments or non-profit agencies. One comment we hear over and over is, “We can’t use social media; all of the web sites are blocked at work!”

So here are a few arguments to bring back to your managers as to why social media shouldn’t be blocked in your place of work:

  1. Even if YOU aren’t using social media, most people are and they’re spending less and less time reading newspapers and watching tv. Your organization needs to have access to where people are spending their time, if it wants to reach them. For those in any kind of marketing, communications, outreach, or community building role, this is especially important.
  2. Today’s audiences expect more than just information, they expect entertainment, they expect relationships, and they expect it regularly. You can’t deliver without access to the ever-evolving tools found online - at least not easily.
  3. The conversation is happening whether your organization participates or not.  Instead of avoiding social media to prevent negative feedback or other issues, be there to tackle the issues and add your expertise to what is already happening. (Policies, planning and setting expectations with your audience will help prevent issues from cropping up.)
  4. Social media is full of useful and interesting information and gives employees access to answers that could help them in their jobs. Imagine how many other organizations around the world face similar challenges day to day. The potential for collaboration is infinitely valuable for professionals.
  5. If the only point of the blocking these sites is to prevent employees from accessing email, Facebook and YouTube while at work, the increasing prevelance of smartphones means no organization is going to succeed. 

While I can understand that not every employee needs access to social media to do their job, there is a strong argument for trusting your employees to use the tools responsibly and give them the opportunity to access the wealth of knowledge online. Not to mention that, with comprehensive training and policies designed to empower, your employees can become your biggest ambassadors of the work you do.

What do you think?  Leave a comment and let us know if you are blocked from social channels at work and if you have any arguments to add to the list!

The care and feeding of your social media staffer

These days, many businesses and companies are hiring staff specifically to run their social media, online marketing, and even their guerilla/non-traditional marketing efforts. It’s a great idea, but do these companies understand how to care for their social media staffers?

So you’ve adopted a social media staffer. Now what?

I see a lot of social media people these days that are working for places that are, in every other sense, pretty anti-social. I have colleagues who run social media channels for places that, say, manufacture tiny glass lenses for microscopes. Chances are, the new staffer’s working style will be a bit of a culture shock to those around her. The nuances of wielding new media like a skilled swordsman is something that does, indeed, require a specific skillset, interest level, and training background…but stop to consider that it may also require a certain personality. Here are some tips that may apply to your social media staffer.

Social media staffers need space to be weird

An SM Staffer is a creative soul. This is not a field where you can do something ‘by the book’, or in the same way every day, and meet with success. You’ve likely hired someone who is artistic, or creative in some other way. Respect that creativity and embrace it. I have blogged before about how much I hate wearing business clothes to my job—a job where I’m rarely seen by anyone other than my direct supervisor. It may sound silly, but your SM Staffer may do his best work when he’s wearing a Storm Trooper helmet and rubber boots. What’s the trade-off? You remind him to wear a suit on important days, and in exchange he thinks up geniusy new ideas while contemplating how the Empire could have beaten the Rebel Alliance, if only they’d built droids with more stable footwear.

Social media staffers need safety to take risks

If your SM Staffer is always afraid that she’ll get fired because a video doesn’t go viral, or because a campaign got some criticism from the local news channel, she won’t give you her craziest ideas—which are usually the best ones. Personally, I’d sooner hire an SM Staffer who’d messed up a couple times before. It means she takes chances, tries new things, and knows where the pitfalls are.

Social media staffers need flexibility

Creative souls may need to do things differently. If I had my choice, I wouldn’t have a desk at all; I’d write all day on a big fat armchair while Modern Family episodes played in the background. If you want your SM Staffer to pump out five blog posts a week, he may need to head out to Starbucks for an hour or two for a change of scene while he writes. Or maybe he wants to prepare all your scheduled tweets from home at 6:00am. Why not? Worried about reliability? Here’s a trick: the more engaged and understood your Staffer is feeling, the more likely he is to put 100% into his working day. Ruling with an iron fist is almost guaranteed to crush the very creativity you hired your SM Staffer for.

Social media staffers need to be trusted

This one is simple: if you hired an SM Staffer because you’re not a pro in social media yourself, consider trusting his judgement when he says yea or nay to an idea. If he spends 80% of his day explaining Hootsuite’s limitations to you because you won’t just trust what he’s telling you, he’s just a very expensive tutorial program. 

Social media staffers need to be social

Is your SM Staffer wandering around sometimes, or texting, or following trending topics on Twitter? Again, remember: you hired her for social media. If you suck all the social out of her day, she’s going to lose touch with the very culture she’s committed to working with. 

Social media staffers need training

Especially because social media is a creative field, there’s no one right way to get trained up on how to do the business. Support your Staffer in his quest to find new seminars, networking groups, and meetups (or tweetups) to attend. Most of the cool professionals I’ve used in my day job are people I’ve met at various social media learning or networking events. My socializing helps my social media. Seems obvious, I know; but many employers don’t get it.

These are just some starting tips on how to foster a happy, healthy social media staffer. Remember that you can hold someone accountable to goals and deadlines without strapping them to an office chair for eight hours at a time, and it’s okay if you don’t understand every nuance of social media, yourself. Be kind to your social media staffer, and you may have yourself a loyal, lifelong companion. 


Jordan Danger is a social media professional and the blogger of GIRL, CRAFTED—a lifestyle and DIY blog. She is a social media fanatic who works in marketing and communications, aspires to one day be a full-time writer. Jordan has a dream of one day being a really good cook…in the meantime, she keeps a frozen pizza on hand just in case. You can connect with Jordan via her blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Should small businesses invest time in using social media?

While listening to an interview of BJ Mendelson by Mitch Joel about his new book Social Media is Bullshit this weekend, I started thinking about how people and businesses perceive what social media can do for them.

  • Do they believe it is a magic solution to gaining new customers?  
  • Do marketers over promise the success of using social media?
  • Do business users understand how key social is in social media?

Here are reasons I think you should use social media for your business and reasons you shouldn’t.

Good reasons to use social media for your business

  • You’re interested in building relationships with your customers (actual and potential);
  • You want to be a part of the conversation;
  • You want to listen to your customers;
  • You want to be available to your customers in the places they hang out and provide them information in the way they like to receive it.

Bad reasons to use social media for your business

  • You think it is the magic answer to your ultimate success;
  • You think everything you say will spread far and wide as soon as you start writing it;
  • You think it will make you rich and famous;
  • You think it can stand alone.

I have a background in Public Relations and Communications.  When I meet with clients to discuss social media, I don’t just think about social media.  I think about media relations, I think about community relations, I think about networking and I think about web content.  Why? Because social media is only one piece of your communications puzzle.

The only reason that we pull it out and separate it here is because social media (right now) requires more than just an action plan, it requires education.  People are scared and overwhelmed by social media and we want to walk them through it all.  The ultimate goal however is for social to simply be a part of overall communications for any business.

So, does it work?

Yes, and here’s proof:

One of my favourite local businesses here in Ottawa is an online company called Blend Creations. They have dropped all traditional print advertising and only use social media to market their products. 

Little Lotus Yoga credits social media not only for increased business but also for the amazing relationships and partnerships she’s been able to form.

Sara McConnell Photography gets almost 75% of her business from social media - primarily from current clients sharing the photos she takes of them with their friends via Facebook or sharing her blog.

If you’re a small business, have you seen success using social media?

Who are you talking to?

Do you know who your audience is? Have you ever sat down and thought about who it is you’re trying to reach with your business?

Who is your audience?

For social media (like any other communications and marketing initiatives) knowing who your audience is and understanding them sets the tone for all your messaging.

What do you know about your audience?

Once you know who your audience is, you need to figure out what makes them tick:

  • What do they like?
  • What do they want?
  • What do they need? 
  • How can you help?

“Social Media Simplified” is our tag line. A lot of our audience wants help understanding what they feel is complicated and, at times, overwhelming. They want simple, concise information. They don’t want to feel silly for not understanding when they come to us.

How do you say it?

Speak their language and at a level they feel comfortable with. Don’t talk down to or confuse them by talking over their heads. 

For us it’s avoiding jargon or information that is overly complicated when it’s not necessary knowledge. 

Example: Personal chef

Let’s go through it again with the example of two personal chefs with two different audiences.

The first specializes in catering special events, making delicious and complicated meals, and bringing haute cuisine right to your home.  The second makes home-cooked meals for your convenience.

The audience for the first is high income professionals who want to live an exquisite life.  They want to feel they are getting the best and they are willing to pay for it.

The audience for the second are busy professionals who are willing to pay for the convinience of not having to cook themselves.

The messaging to those two audiences would be very very different and for the most part, not interchangeable.  The first would be all about having the best, treating yourself to what you deserve and bringing a 5-star restaurant right to your home.  The second would be all about convenience, making life easier, and giving you more time and energy for the things that are important to you.

Same job title; completely different messaging based on audience.

Knowing who your audience is (and pick your IDEAL audience instead of saying “anyone who will give me money”) makes all the difference in the way you communicate.

Have you taken the time to figure it out? Who is your audience? Leave a comment and tell us who your audiences are and how you’ve gone about creating content for them - we’d love to hear!

Sixty Second Social: Effective communication starts with proper use

We’ve all been in the position of reading a fantastic piece when all of the sudden a typo or grammatical error jumps out at you. To a large extent, these things are minor and shouldn’t detract from the value of truly good content.

There is an exception to this - when you’ve seen the error over and over and over again. I don’t mean in one blog post. I mean all over the place:

  • Tweets.Options
  • Blog posts (plural).
  • Facebook updates.
  • LinkedIn resume. (Yikes!)

We all make mistakes, but when you’re building a reputation as an online expert, it’s pretty important to (as much as possible) eliminate the following little errors that can make a major impact on the impression you give your audience.

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
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