There’s a lot of coverage in the news about internet trolling at the moment, some of it very depressing, and often relating to the use of Twitter to hound celebrities or well-known people.
The impression that a lot of trolling goes on is reinforced by what we encounter on social media channels ourselves. For example earlier this week I was delighted to find out that a new series of Twin Peaks is to be made, and watched the YouTube teaser. Of course the comments thread on YouTube tends to be one of the more unhinged corners of trolling and I was amused to read I was a “vacuous nincompoop” for looking forward to the show. And that was quite polite.
No trolls on my intranet
While the level of trolling and online abuse on the internet is unacceptably high, on enterprise social networks and social intranets it’s very low and sometimes virtually zero. In my line of work I speak to a lot of intranet and Enterprise Social Network managers and the huge majority experience very very few inappropriate posts that need to be taken down. Despite this, there is still a residual fear among many senior executives, middle managers, risk functions and HR departments, that the social intranet or network will be used inappropriately.
This view is not entirely without merit. For example erroneous information can leak out, and client matters can be mentioned when they shouldn’t be, but the overwhelming experience is that this hardly happens and if it does, it is usually swiftly dealt with.
But the fear persists
Why does the fear of misuse, either deliberate or accidental, persist?
I don’t think the instances of trolling helps, and reinforces a general impression that social media can be misused in a work context. And of course it can, for example there are instances of Facebook which have been used by employees to discuss work matters and got them into trouble, including the staff at my local branch of Waitrose being rude about the customers. (I hope they didn’t say anything about me.) But overall internal and external social networks are very different.
There is also perhaps a more general fear of revealing what the workforce really thinks about the organisation and the management they work for. Although of course that exists completely independent of whether there is a channel to express it or not.
Twelve steps to reduce fear and risk of misuse of internal social media
To get risk functions and senior management comfortable with a social intranet and reduce the chance of a project getting pulled, as well as minimise the actual chance of ESN “misuse”, here are twelve steps you can take:
- Engage early with the appropriate stakeholders. If you’re embarking on a social intranet journey cover off any concerns about risk early on, and speak to the right people.
- Speak to other organisations which have been down this journey. Learning from the experiences of others who have found no problems once they launched their social neetork can help convince jumpy executives that it will all be OK.
- Run a pilot. Running a pilot where it all goes smoothly can also show that social intranet misuse is largely a red herring.
- Don’t allow anonymous posting. The single most important aspect of avoiding social intranet misuse is to ensure every post is attributable to an individual. They are not going to want to post something that is going to get them the sack, and also encourages higher quality posting. Employees think before they post.
- Have a report this button. A simple report this button makes it easy to spot potentially risky posts, and it means that social platforms become largely self-regulating.
- Install a clear and transparent process for reported content You also need to have a clear process for what happens when content is reported, incorporating whether it is taken down straight away, when you contact the poster, and what happens if there is a disagreement about whether the content should stay or go.
- Have a social media policy that’s actually readable. Have a social media policy that is clear to view, isn’t written in legalease and is actually useful. Let people know what is expected and the consequences of what happens if they fall short. Keep a version of the policy that is short and snappy, and also infuse it with good practices and best use.
- Get people to agree to the policy when the first register Get people to sign up with an “agree” button to adhere to the policy when they first register for the platform. I’ve heard some organisations who also deliver a video at the same time which describes risks, optimum use of social channels and features management endorsement. Users need to watch the video to be registered.
- Cover off social media use in annual declarations Some professional services firms need people to agree to annual declarations covering professional conduct. Other organisations might cover these areas off as part of the joining process. Sensible use of internal social media should be included here to help your risk department sleep at night.
- Train community managers Train community managers in this area, not only in the process for dealing with inappropriate posts, but also in talking about it to members of their community.
- Allow moderation on risky areas Generally social networks grind to a halt with moderation but in some cases this is needed. For example if there is blogging about technical information, the content may need to be moderated if it puts the firm or people at risk if the wrong information is posted.
- Keep on reporting Report the progress on the number of posts that had to be taken down, or the swiftness with which issues have been dealt with. Hopefully these will be very positive and any continuing concerns will evaporate.
Is there anything I missed out? Do your experiences differ? Let me know in the comments below!