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Social Media: Lightning Storm

October 20, 2012

Lightning storm over Boston - NOAA

Lightning storm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Social Media first emerged into the mainstream, many in industry and government restricted their employees from participating.   In many meetings I heard seniors exclaim: ‘Sure they will reveal proprietary information’.  ‘Surely they will reveal classified or sensitive information’.  ‘Surely they will reveal troop movements’.  ‘Surely they will…’

I worked for one company who wanted desperately to get information out quickly to all their stakeholders.  The problem was the company was mired in an old-school unhealthy aversion to any risk.  Their mind-set was risk avoidance, whereas almost the entire industry has transitioned to risk mitigation.  That company is doomed to fail unless it embraces a 21st century mindset.

Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, SMS/texting, websites, the list goes on and on and on…  these are means of communication.  In the United States this is all protected by the First Amendment, it’s called Freedom of Speech.

If I am a US soldier and I have an opinion different from that of the administration, I have the Constitutional right to voice, or in this case, write my opinion and share it freely.

…and then you have ‘Surely they will…’

Education.  It boils down to the education of leaders and the education of anyone and everyone voicing an opinion.  Many, if not most people in the military and the defense industry tend to have a Republican lean.  Many, if not most, in the educational, media and unionized industry tend to have a Democrat inclination.  I cannot count the times I have heard political discussions, usually centered towards one politician or another, or I have received email touting the strength of one party or another.  These same people then want to restrict speech of individuals, saying ‘Sure they will…’

These people lack the education on how to not discuss sensitive topics.  These people lack the education on how discussions of professional topics, counter to one’s opinion, is healthy and promotes democracy.  These people lack the education on how one person’s personal opinion can differ from their organization’s goals or path and yet professionally they will appear totally aligned with their organization.

Just yesterday I read an article by John McGreavy in Information Week:  The Problem with Social Collaboration on IT Projects.  In the article it is discussed how one might “socialize” a project.  It starts with discussions at the senior level, thinking of the company first. After necking down the choices, a wider group is included, asking for pros, cons and possible alternatives.  Then the idea is opened up to yet larger group…  at each level further refinement occurs.  This is top-down leadership with healthy input from subordinates and stakeholders.  All through social media.

I have a very good friend who I have defended to all those around me.  He is the #2 guy at a local organization.  He and I have commiserated in the past that his boss is a poor leader.  I used to joke that if you would look up the definition of a bad leader, the #1 guy’s picture would appear.  In the past year or two, there has been a hurricane of controversy surrounding the #1 guy, but my friend appeared loyal throughout.  My friend epitomizes the definition of someone who can separate his personal and professional opinions.  That is the same compartmentalization needed to have a blog.

Admiral James G. Stavridis is a perfect example of a prolific social media user who Tweets prolifically and encourages the same of his subordinates.  I follow him on Twitter, he follows me and I believe we’re friends on Facebook.

Then there is the case of professional blogs.  Ugh.  The taste in my mouth when it comes to professional blogs has never been good.  Usually one gets a junior staffer to write the blog as a word document, then the document is staffed and then forwarded to the leader for approval.  If the paper was finished by 10 am and staffed, by the end of the day the leader might see it and, after editing the stuffings out of it, it comes back ‘approved’.  Then it is published in the blog and usually is about as dynamic as a day old sandwich.  By this time it is inconsequential, old hat and a total waste of electrons.

A good professional blog is barely possible if the writer is not empowered to write and publish quickly.  The writer must know the organization’s opinion, a quick phone call can usually tell the writer that, and if the writer has a differing opinion, it might be well phrased as “others believe that…”.

It would be even better if a leader were to have a blog in their own name.  There is nothing better than to have someone in charge share the big picture with the reader, then cite some of the points which are important and which influence his or her opinion.  It is important, to reassure the reader, that conflicting points and opinions should also be reflected.  Good leaders can do this, bad leaders have a difficult time.

As I expressed in Social Media Security 101, one must be vigilant for any information which would give competitors and possible adversaries any advantage.

What am I missing?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 20, 2012 6:24 pm

    You missed that a Marine was discharged for speaking his political opinion on Facebook.
    (source: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/04/25/11394219-marine-who-criticized-president-obama-on-facebook-to-be-discharged?lite )

    heh.

    From first-hand experience, I have seen the chance for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars to be made on missed opportunities by investors because they refused to engage in the 21st Century Infosphere that provides near real time information. A live stock ticker and a subscription to one news feed is not enough, IMO! The line of reasoning was that the corporate side was too afraid of being hacked (despite the fact everybody had their little RSA keychains that protected the REAL valuable information) or sensitive information about customers getting out to bad people (as if discretion wasn’t already a factor in the stated rule set.)

    I did have some sort of a laugh about all that though before I left that job. The only social network that was allowed at my former work place was LinkedIn. As a nobody in the business, I came in after most of the investors because they had to be there when the NYSE opened for trading. One day before I had left my house to work, I was scanning my news feed on Facebook (over 5500 perspectives) and I had noticed that LinkedIn was taken for over 6 million passwords. When I got to work, I noticed there was no email waiting for me to instruct me to change my LI password (even though I didn’t have one at the time.) I started asking some of the folks in the office about what had happened and if they had changed their password. They had no clue. An email was sent to the main office on the East Coast and they had heard nothing about it! I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that information obtained off a “forbidden” social network helped saved some people’s a@@es who were engaged on the only “permitted” social network. After bringing the issue to light and the main office getting word, an email was sent out to instruct users to change passwords; however, there was no instructions or guidance for creating a safe password.

    What really irked me was that the older types did not want to push for a greater use of social networking because they don’t want to take the ten minutes to understand how it works. “It’s too confusing” was a quote I have heard too many times! If that is the case, think about their password security. :facepalm:

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