I had a great discussion with attendees of our weekly Power of Social Media, SEO and Email webinar on Thursday and I want to share one of the topics that came up regarding how companies that handle sensitive data should be using social media and if they make their sites closed off to comments. If you haven’t attended this webinar, hosted by me and my colleague Heidi Tobias, I encourage you to register online. You can also ask us questions via Twitter at @azurecollier and @htoby.
Q: I work for a recruiting firm and our business is very competitive. Data security is a top priority. Our contacts/candidates are very valuable to what we do. If other recruiting firms get the names of these people, it can very easily turn into lost revenue for our company. How should we manage the business page wall effectively to protect data? If our company makes a post on our wall and one of our contacts/candidates “Likes” or comments on the post, this creates a data security issue for us.
A: I think that because of what you do, you might want to use a couple of social media tools in different ways. Facebook might not be the primary place for you to engage with your customers. And that’s OK! It’s not right for everyone. You might form a private LinkedIn group and invite them to engage with you, and definitely create a company profile for LinkedIn. Facebook – and also Twitter – could be tools you can use for either promotions or discussion/Facebook questions. You could announce news but also ask the public what they think about something happening in the industry. You can be general with it. You can disable comments on Facebook, or make your Twitter account private, but social media is all about engagement. If you don’t allow people to have conversations with you, then you basically have a second corporate website and its platform just happens to be Facebook. We’re in a new era – conversation used to be top down, where the president or CEO were the driving forces behind the direction and the voice of communication, and told the customers what to think. Now the customers can talk back and ask questions and also talk about how much they love you if they’re your advocates. I encourage you to also look around and see what your competitors are doing and take a few cues from them.
When attending or speaking at events, I sometimes get asked similar questions in the healthcare field, but more about healthcare complance issues. Have you advice on this as well?
The healthcare industry definitely has to balance the public vs. private issue when thinking about social media marketing. One of the first things they can do is get everyone in their organization on the same page by creating a social media policy. Put it on paper: what can we talk about and what can we not talk about in a public forum? A general rule of thumb for healthcare might be to use social media to promote events, healthy activities and tips, and news about your organization, but keep confidential patient and employee details out of social media sites. Take the conversation offline with qualified people who can help.
An organization that has done a fantastic job with setting up social media policies is the U.S. Air Force. Their policy includes guidelines for communicating with the public via social media, and a great Top 10 Tips list. You can find policies for other organizations and companies in the Social Media Governance database.
I recently spoke with a communications director for a hospital in Massachusetts, and, in addition to creating a policy, they are putting together a patient and employee advisory group to provide input on what they’d like to see in the hospital’s social media communications. That’s a great way to get ideas for content, but also to get a temperature check on how patients and employees might respond to that content.