University of Iowa faculty have been discussing at length the need for a social media policy. Much of this discussion has taken place via social media, where all the world can see them battling back and forth, although to be fair almost everyone involved agrees there is a definite need of one.
My question is, what are they waiting for?
This past year we have seen one social media gaff after another, as otherwise innocuous comments have caused everything from mild inconvenience to corporate embarrassment. Many times these social media mis-steps have resulted in someone losing their job. All because there either were no hard and fast rules for social media engagement or someone dropped the ball.
It’s much like giving your teenagers the keys to your car and sending them on a cross country trip without ensuring they have passed their driving test and understand the rules of the road. Yes, it is THAT bad.
Social media now has a global reach. Using just the three most popular social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) it is now possible to communicate with more than one billion people in markets around the world. This creates an environment where one wrong word can be repeated over and over again; the term viral is apt for describing what can happen to your “wrong” message once it gets out.
There are plenty of ways to avoid these types of situations. A corporate social media policy is the simplest, and usually the first way to prevent these types of problems fro happening. It is important also to have controls in place; know who is responsible for sending what messages and to have a social media plan for them to follow.
What is not a good idea is to allow unfettered access to social media with no rules for controlling the messages which are sent out. You don’t need a social media expert to tell you this. (At least you shouldn’t need a social media expert to tell you this.)
Unfortunately, despite a number of examples of what can happen when your social media network is not properly controlled, University of Iowa is still grappling with the decision whether to do anything at all. This is likely to end in a very public faux pas, making it likely they will set an example I can use for a future client.
Higher-education officials from across the state said it’s important for college faculty to be careful with their social-media presence.
A piece written by University of Iowa journalism Professor Stephen Bloom has caught a firestorm of criticism this week from some who say it was inaccurate and overly critical of Iowans. On Tuesday, UI Associate Professor Kembrew McLeod wrote on Bloom’s Facebook wall, calling Bloom a “self-important jerk” and throwing in a few obscenities.
“… [Y]our Atlantic piece sunk my opinion of you further — and I didn’t think it could get that low,” Kembrew wrote.
None of Iowa’s three state universities have formal policies regarding public content posted on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. That leaves the lines regarding appropriate interactions among colleagues on the web unclear.
The UI caught some heat earlier this year when the school’s @UIowaPolitics Twitter account posted a tweet saying, “I didn’t know Bachmann was in town. Bah-dum-bum,” following reports of a cougar loose in Iowa City.
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