Several years ago I attended an industry conference for a technology organization where I attended a number of workshops having to do with how to utilize and manage various technologies that were really beginning to impact our business. Smartphones, social media, and changing expectations of consumers and employees were among the topics addressed.
One session presented by a senior-level IT person covered the use of social media by businesses. It struck me from the start that IT seemed to be the wrong perspective to take on this subject until I discovered that his overriding point was around the ways he blocked social media access to the employees. He discussed the risks associated with giving staff open access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. Then he began telling some horror stories about gaps in security that had happened to other companies as a result of a lax policy.
This was about five years ago, and the insurance industry was still very wary of social media. I knew that eventually the tides would turn and businesses would be forced to open the portals, albeit with some protective measures in place.
Along the way, social media’s impact on businesses, relationships, communities, nations and the world at large became more apparent every day. A startling example of this was observed and written about in an ebook called “The Social Revolution” by Barry Libert, a social media thought leader.
In his book, Libert describes how the 2013 rebellion in the Middle East was fueled by a well-organized and passionate group of people through the use of social media (Twitter, in particular) and mobile technology.
As the events in Egypt and Tunisia have shown people can organize through social networks — and even when governments shut down the Internet, protesters can find ways to circumvent those (and other) defenses. What we’ve seen in Libya, Yemen, Iran, Syria, and even China is that brutal crackdowns lead to almost certain failure. But, in the end, social movements encourage the open expression of ideas and affirms the passions and desires of people leading to their ability to connect, revolt, and overturn those in power.
The corollary here with business is that a corporate revolution is coming and if companies aren’t prepared for it, aren’t open to it and accepting of it, their future is likely uncertain.
During these same past five years, social media’s influence over marketing, hiring and personal development has become enormous.
A recently published report by Proskauer Rose LLP entitled Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 3.0 shows that nearly 90 percent of all companies now use social media for business purposes. This is a marked increase over just a few years prior. In addition, businesses are using social media in a much more sophisticated and widespread way across the entire enterprise than previously.
At the same time, the survey discovered that most businesses have had to deal with social media misuse and have taken disciplinary action. Logically, as a result, it has spawned an increase in the development of social media policies: from 60 percent to nearly 80 percent within just the last year.
This increase in issues around employee access to social media might be why the survey also found that more employers are actually blocking access at work: from 29 percent in 2012 to 36 percent in 2013. It’s this dichotomy of company practices — growing in the marketing and hiring areas, while shrinking in the staff access — that is creating the greatest challenge for businesses.
Insurance agents are not immune to these issues. You’re pulling from the same pool of prospective employees, you’re marketing to the same consumer base and, if you’re smart and leveraging social media, you’re utilizing the same social platforms. So how do you deal with the push/pull of the current standing of social media?