by Paula on August 12, 2011

There was a lot of fury and frustration expressed yesterday at David Cameron’s comments regarding limiting or shutting down of social networks due to misuse of them during this week’s riots.

For me I felt a sense of deja vu that I’m tiring of.

I’m not going to write a piece about how social media is merely a communication tool and what happened would have happened regardless of the means of communication. I’m also not going to write a piece about how thousands / millions of people felt reassured via the Social sites during the riots, getting feedback, support, latest updates and a sense of there being a lot of good out there and a minority of bad. No, I want to write about the continuing attitude of stopping progress or disabling privileges to punish the very small minority who abuse them, rather than taking action to deal with those abusers.

Staff Benefits

I previously worked for a company where I had regular involvement in meetings to discuss staff benefits such as flexible working and time off in lieu. The conversations would always start with a brainstorming of a system that would offer the best working opportunity for staff and company alike, and then would gradually be withdrawn back to something that offered little. The reason? Ensuring that we had a policy that couldn’t be abused or taken advantage of by the few staff who may choose to do so. I always found it very frustrating that they would take this stance of limiting something that would offer great morale and rewards to the 95% of hard working and reasonable staff, in case of abuse by those who whatever the system would be looking for loopholes.

How much better it would be to offer a fair and rewarding system that would really work for the hard workers, and then take action against those who chose to mis-use it.

Social Media

I find this too with my daily work with clients. The benefits of social media to a business are far-reaching both for internal and external communications. A progressive way forward for a business is to educate themselves about the opportunities and threats, relate the learning to their own business and communicate this clearly to staff. Offering expectations and boundaries in clear and simple guidelines, and then demonstrating the trust and confidence in the staff to follow these procedures could move your workplace forward significantly. The thing that is holding organisations back is “What if staff mis-use it?” And the fear of this stops them from doing anything, thus once again punishing the majority of good by a weakness in dealing with the bad.

How much further they could go if they decided that progress would not be limited by those undeserving, and action would be taken to ensure that abuse was dealt with and would not be tolerated.

Negative Feedback

Another reason businesses will quote for not using Social Media is the fear that “someone might say something bad about us“. Again, if you are a decent business, working hard and putting clients needs to the top of the agenda, the majority of people that will connect with you and talk about you will be saying the good things you deserve to hear! Yes sometimes there will be negative feedback but don’t let this minority of criticism hold you back from opportunity. Rather listen, take it on board, respond fairly and be seen to care! Don’t let the minority spoil it for you – monitor, respond and grow!

David Cameron

And so back to David Cameron and his remarks about limiting access to social sites. It is another naive statement demonstrating:

  1. a lack of understanding about social media,
  2. that the positivity that is generated via social media has completely passed him by, and 
  3. a weakness in considering taking the cowardly way out to punish the masses rather than stand up and take action against the few.

I look forward to the day when I see more examples of people pushing things forward, knowing that there will always be a minority of abusers but confident that this will not be tolerated and they will be dealt with. Only then will I start to feel the progress that is needed to pave the way for a more positive future for us, our businesses and our freedom of speech.

What are your views?

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