“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.” – Colonel Jessup in the movie A Few Good Men
Organizations that choose to deploy collaborative solutions, ranging from Twitter to Facebook to full-blown community software, are making a decision that it is time to engage their customers, their citizens, in a bi-directional dialog. This dialog is not for dialogs sake alone, it is meant to deliver a return on investment. For businesses, this should lead to higher profits. For local governments and federal agencies it should lead to better delivery of services. For politicians it should lead to winning an election.
However, some organizations do not seem to fully understand what they are signing up for and choose to clamp down, to guard those walls and treat their customers, their citizens, as the enemy, keeping them at a safe and comfortable distance. It was with disappointment that I read about the Social Media Policy in use by the city of Charlotte, NC. Charlotte has a Facebook fan page where citizens are allowed to leave comments but only city employees can view those comments, not other citizens.
While other large cities in the area, as well as North Carolina itself, have an open policy Charlotte stands alone, fearing lawsuits that might arise from inappropriate posts. While I respect the concern, I feel strongly that the move is the wrong one.
If you want to leverage Social Business Strategies remember:
- Define clear guidelines, a clear Social Media Policy, for employees.
- Define accepted use policies for your customers/citizens. Instead of blocking access to comments clearly state what is acceptable. In the case of questionable wall posts, if you fear deleting them create an area, maybe within a discussion board, where questionable wall posts are moved. This enables citizens to exercise their right to free speech without allowing offensive comments to side track your goals.
- If you do not wish to publish citizen feedback through social channels then stick to making your web site and your feedback forms the best they can be. Each social channel has its own social norms and expectations. If you do not wish to work within this framework, consider other channels.
What do you think? Is Charlotte doing the right thing?