Controlling the Uncontrollable – Managing Social Media Risks, Part 2 of ??

Manage the Risks, and Social isn't that much of a Gamble!

Manage the Risks, and Social isn’t that much of a Gamble!

Yesterday I kicked off a series talking about managing social media risks.  Today I will continue that and get into a few more areas.  The risks in social are a mix of practical and legal.  If you are a professional in this space, you understand the practical risks.  The legal risks are either an unknown, or overblown.

On the flipside, if you are a lawyer working this space you really educated yourself on the legal side.  What you may not have done is get a firm understanding of the practical side of this.  Read my post on How to Train Your Lawyer and get that for yourself.  The real practical risks will be revealed through that, as well as this series of posts.

Now, let’s all recite the Social Media Serenity Prayer:

In Social Media, I manage the things I can, and I should marvel at the things I can not.

Yesterday was mostly about marvel.  Marvel about the speed at which things propagate in social.  Marvel about the scale you need to deal with unmitigated success.  Today is a bit more about management of the space.

Stuff – It’s Not Yours

User-generated content is all about the stuff that users give you.  The stuff they give you is theirs, by the way.  Everything.  All of it.  They spent their time to write it, take a picture of it, and to post it.  It is theirs.  Once you understand this basic concept, managing user-generated content becomes easier.

You might be amazed at the the amount of stuff that is being created.  I just watched a years old TED video that explains this trend and the human need to create.  Social technologies reduce the friction of sharing their creations.  So we get things like Lolcats.  We also get things like Ushahidi, which has been used to track things like voter fraud and crisis response.  This is all the result of what Clay Shirky calls cognitive surplus.  Watch his video:

If you solicit user’s participation in any forum, they will be giving you their stuff.  You can’t control them.  You may not even like what you are getting.  Some of the management controls you should look at include:

    • Secure your rights.  It is their stuff, but you want to use it, right?  So put in place the right license mechanism that is fair to your users, at least in language.  While there are fortune seekers out there, most users want to give you stuff because they like you so much.  Avoid the knee-jerk reaction to own it.  You just want to be able to use it, right.  Why ask for more, when asking for more will enrage your users.
    • Don’t forget other’s rights.  You might be surprised to know that users don’t understand the rights of others.  In your license mechanism have some language about the rights of others.  If you use the content somewhere other than where it was posted, you need to build in contingencies to look at that issue again.
    • Don’t forget other’s rights, part 2 – The DMCA.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires processes that will allow the legal right holder to request the removal of infringing content.  Failure to do this properly will make your brand liable for infringement.
    • Protect your brand.  Have moderation in place to deal with content that is off-topic or harmful.  Good rules allow you to frame the conversation.  Pre-moderation is good, but too cumbersome for real time conversation.  Have a kill-switch in place.  For campaigns, and communities.  The kill switch will be important as you brief the risks up your chain.
    • Practice moderation.  This is a no brainer to some.  Be moderate in your handling of the community.  Be fair, be moderate.  Treat them like visitors to your home.  They are not the enemy, they want to be there.  You may not like their reason, but they are your guests.

Staff – Your Biggest Risk

Your employees are your biggest assets, and sometimes your biggest risk.  The speed and scale of social makes it even harder these days.  50 years ago, it took longer to steal a company secret – the walk from the office to the car.  Today, it is seconds.  Discourse around the water cooler to a small group is now out in the open for all the world to see and connected to all your other groups of employees.

Training, training, training.  This is the only management control that I know of that really works.  You don’t truly manage your employees with policies.  You just scare them.  Train them.  Train them on culture.  Some may call this brainwashing.  Fine, brainwash them.  Not really.  What I mean is have a good culture training effort in place which shows what your company is all about.  When asked about your company, they will fall back on this to say things like, “we were founded to bring cutting edge technology to areas hit by natural disasters to speed recovery and this is why I am here.”  They want to say good things about the place they work, otherwise they wouldn’t work there.  Don’t build your training around the very small minority of employees you think will say the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

Ongoing training includes success stories, videos, recurring prompts, newsletters, etc.  What I don’t think works is capital T training, except for those that are truly spokespeople for your brands.  Capital T training means pulling them into a room and listening to lectures.  Social media is about doing.  Why should your training be any different.  Let them go out and do.

Be open to failure.  Some will get it wrong.  Not because they want to, but because they tried too hard.  You may have employees that get it wrong for the wrong reasons.  You should have other mechanisms in place to help them either find the right way to do things, or find the right employment fit for them.

Still Not Done

I have now gone through two parts and just over 2,000 words.  I am still not done on what I want to say.  In the next part we will talk about management mechanisms.  How should your organization be setup to manage the risk?  I hope to also spend some time and marvel at what can happen when you let things happen around you.  Let go of alittle control and you will be amazed at the results.


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