Watching the Watchers

Tim and Gem Book Promo Pic

I’m going to confess, right up front.  This blog post is a shameless plug for my new ebook on social media, written with that very nice Tim Scott, better known on Twitter as @TimScottHR.  Confession done.  Now that is out of the way, here is the post:

A few months ago, someone asked me whether or not I thought organisations should have a social media supervisor.  You know, someone who would keep an eye on what employees are saying and sharing in their social world.

At first I laughed a bit.  And then I realised it was actually a serious question.  So I attempted a serious answer.

Social media is 24/7, global, immediate.  Every single minute there are millions of Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, Tweets, Pins, likes, comments and shares.  Social is constantly growing, constantly evolving.  I’ve seen Twitter in particular described as ‘the conversation that never sleeps’.  On that basis, neither could any social media supervisor.

Of course your employees can, and probably will, do stuff on social media that they shouldn’t. I’ve blogged on the subject before.  For some people, it might result in a disciplinary hearing.  For others, as the headlines have repeatedly shown us, it can result in the loss of their job and reputation.  But handing someone a contract of employment does not give you the right to monitor every aspect of their lives.  For many folks, social media is just that.  Social.  In the old pre Facebook days, you wouldn’t have thought to follow them down the pub and eavesdrop on their conversations with their mates.  So why would you do it in the social world?  I’m being glib, perhaps.  Because a pub conversation can’t of course go viral.

But I’d argue that taking the supervision approach will just give you more problems.  Practical ones and more fundamental ones too.  Issues of both privacy and human rights are relevant here.  But so is your retention rate.  Would you really want to work somewhere that monitored your every tweet and status update?  I wouldn’t.  I’d go and work somewhere less Victorian instead.

And then the thought occurred.  In this 1984-esque vision of employee monitoring, who supervises the social media supervisor?  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

And just in case you want to know more about all of this social stuff, here is a link to the book. I think it is rather good.  And so does my mum. 

The cover for the book was designed by the fabulous Simon Heath