If you’re Don Quixote, you can control Sancho Panza. You tell him not to tweet. He doesn’t tweet. He’s one dude on a donkey.
This technique doesn’t work as well in organizations with thousands or even hundreds of employees. The millennials and Gen Xers dominating the workforce believe the Bill of Rights guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of sharing.
Rather than swing at windmills, I propose the Piggly Wiggly approach to social media.
If you’re not familiar with the Piggly Wiggly, the company’s founder Clarence Saunders invented the concept of the self-serve grocery store. U.S. Patent No. 1,242,872 captures the invention in all its glory.
And you thought Amazon’s one-click checkout broke new ground.
At the time, everyone thought Saunders was a lunatic, that allowing customers to pick their own groceries from the shelves instead of ordering from a single counter would be a license to steal. Yet, a radical outcome arose from the “lunacy” when Piggly Wiggly actually tested U.S. Patent No. 1,242,872 in some stores.
People lived up to the trust.
The photo below shows one of the early self-serving grocery stores in action. I guess hats were a thing back then.
That’s what I mean by applying a Piggy Wiggly mentality to managing social media. Rather than take on the quixotic quest to control these digital channels, companies should recognize that a decentralized model best serves the cause. Employees will live up to their trust. They just need guidelines and boundaries to keep them on the pavement.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to trigger internal chirping and sniping and other verbs that don’t reflect well on the company culture, treat employees like Big Brother watching their every move.
A friend sent me an email from his company a few year back, putting the clamps on employee access to social channels. It caused an uproar — to put it gently — with the employee base.
Subject: FW: Social Media Access
As we move to the XXXXXXXX Enterprise Network, there will be some limitations in social media access.
In general, access to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc., is blocked. Users can access their account at XXXXXXX to request access if such access is required. It may be a good idea to get requests in before we complete the change. Once a user submits a request, tell your managers to watch for an approval email.
Feel free to contact IT if you have any questions.
I particularly liked the line, “Users can access their account to request access if such access is required.” Whoever wrote this copy must have a poster of Franz Kafka on the living room wall.
Eventually, the company will figure out that it can’t control social media. Until that happens, any 7-Elevens close to the facility would be wise to keep an eye on those IT guys.
Look, I recognize the shift away from a command and control model to decentralized social media can cause heartburn.
I remember helping a client CMO sell the idea of a hybrid decentralized model — select employees from all functions across the company would be trained and guided in social media — to the rest of the executive management team. The CEO put the kibosh on the proposal. His rationale — as a public company, they carefully scripted what they’re going to say during each quarterly earnings call, and the last thing they needed was some guy in procurement tanking the stock price with an off-hand tweet.
Being a glass-is-half-full type, I told the CMO this is a good start. At least your CEO knows what a tweet is.