Leveson, Social Media and your Business

The Leveson enquiry has caused many of us to ponder our relationship with the media and it will be interesting to find out how far the government will go in implementing Leveson’s recommendations. The enquiry and subsequent proposals have sparked a debate about what it means to have a free press and how large media companies operate. Personally I think many in the press have behaved terribly. However I couldn’t help but think if all the attention on the traditional media will be something of an anti climax. Not because the government may or may not water down Leveson’s proposals but because the way we receive our news is changing.

In fact the way we access media has changed enormously in the last few years and it is down to the internet and social media. Social Media is of course a media platform and it gives every individual the chance to spread their message. Years ago this sort of power would have been reserved to media companies but now we see regular people within nothing more than a laptop become successful bloggers or receive millions of hits on You Tube. Who is going to ensure the blogger conforms to standards and how do we know if what they say has any substance whatsoever? We’ve already seen this start to impact businesses from false reviews on Trip Advisor through to poorly researched articles – the internet allows everyone to have their say.

Within the work place, the worlds of work and play are becoming increasingly blurred. I recently spoke with an HR professional who works for a global financial company. They don’t allow employees to use Facebook or Social Media sites on their work PC’s or laptops. This sort of policy might have worked 4 years ago but now every second person owns a smart phone and I’m sure those numbers will increase this Christmas! People are using these devices to connect straight onto any social media site they please (the financial services person even confessed to accessing social media during long meetings when they went a little stale) whether during working hours or their lunch breaks. The idea of telling people they can’t use social media at work just isn’t going to happen.

So if Leveson style regulation of media won’t work with ‘new media’...what’s to be done? With social media a different approach is needed and it is about having a strategy and being proactive. When used effectively social media allows businesses an opportunity to interact with both customers and staff in a positive way. It allows us to influence the conversation, both within the organisation and outside of it. Internally, we are increasingly seeing companies take innovative approaches to using social media as an internal communication tool. Social Media allows a transparency and multi user approach that email (I think e-mail is the work of the devil) doesn’t. In fact I think social media is about a gazillion times more effective for many conversations than e-mail is. Some CEO’s are using twitter as a way to interact with their staff. Do we even need expensive company intranet sites anymore...watch this space.