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Why IT directors must not be the white elephant in social media delivery

05 June 2014 | 03:52 am

Marc Harris, Chief Technical Officer at CrowdControlHQ, examines the issues facing IT Directors from the use of social media.Many IT Directors will have a personal Facebook account and a LinkedIn account but as far as the business they work in goes they will leave social media to the marketing department. But are they doing this at their peril? Marc Harris, Chief Technical Officer at CrowdControlHQ, examines the issues facing IT Directors from the use of social media.

Prior to joining CrowdControlHQ, I had extensive experience in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications sector, but little knowledge of the challenges faced by organisations in the delivery of social media. Working in the sector has given me an appreciation of the risks and an understanding of why it is so important that these risks appear on the IT Director’s risk register.

So let me start by first talking about the elephant in the room – the role of the IT Director! My experiences to date have led me to conclude that social media needs to be firmly at the top of the priority list of every IT Director and below I hope to demonstrate why…

In my new role at CrowdControlHQ I get to see first hand the impact of reputational damage by both internal and external sources through the use of social media and now I more appreciate the risk I find it surprising how few IT Directors are appearing at conferences to discuss the issues.  Perhaps IT Directors feel like they may be seen as an unwelcome interference by marketing, or perhaps a little ‘elbowed out’ by this new communication channel which has evolved extensively under the umbrella of marketing?

But I believe that in future, the organisations which succeed in social media will have marketing and IT departments working seamlessly together to tackle the issues. The lack of communication between marketing and IT teams only serves to intensify the challenges.  And at the end of the day, the DNA of IT makes this team the most experienced and qualified to deal with some of the risk issues so why are they not more involved?

Turning to the issues, I am now more fully appreciative of the challenges faced by multi-disciplined departmental teams in collaborating safely and effectively in the delivery of social media. Today, social media is being used in every aspect of a business from the boardroom right through to the delivery of customer service. This reliance on ‘collaboration’ has in some instances manifested itself as ‘sharing’ responsibility for posting of content – and in some cases sharing of passwords!

I overheard a social media officer quite gleefully boasting the fact that they had the twitter log in for their company chairman.  The justification - the chairman has trouble remembering himself!  When challenged, the officer admitted that he was the chosen ONE! If he was off sick that was it – no tweets or updates! Worse if he left the organisation he had the power to bring the organisation down tweet by tweet (sound familiar….. anyone think HMV?).

It’s the stuff that would have kept me awake at night as an IT Director, yet in a world powered by social engagement, new rules seem to apply!

Recent research also reported that apparently a scarily large number of employees still use the dreaded ‘post it’ note to record their login in usernames and passwords, stuck to walls, desks and even the computer screen (if you are reading this and a culprit – shame on you).  Apparently, we are not coping well with the need to access everything online from social media to our weekly shop and fear our electricals could get pinched, so reverting to paper and pen!

This practice can only end in tears. There have now been too many examples of ‘rogue’ tweets, no audit trail of who posted them (or why) and organisations who should have known better being left rosy cheeked, so why is this practice still so rife? Why would an employee, with their job on the line, ‘fess up’ when they know that at least 15 other people had access to the account that day?

I also believe that few IT departments have a handle on the number of users across their ‘official’ social media accounts, let alone a log of which password protocol they are using, how they are accessing or posting.

But we can’t just blame the employees. I see some organisations with the most robust and celebrated IT protocols around letting themselves down when it comes to simple issues such as data storage. I would guess that very few IT Directors are crystal clear where their marketing communications teams are storing their social media campaigns? Let alone have an understanding of the conversations from the past that they may reference in the future and where they keep their notes about their customers linked to these campaigns? I would hazard a guess that many are breaking their own compliance and governance issues when it comes to social media.

I am not just pushing our own collaboration tool here (other brands are available) but today, there is no need to be sharing passwords. The social media savvy have cottoned on to tiered password access, with both the IT and Marketing departments having an ‘on/off’ switch to give them instant control in times of crisis.  If IT are involved in the installation of a Social Media Management Solution (SMMS) they can see exactly who is plugged into the system, where accountability lies and who they need to train and develop to uphold the security protocols needed to keep the organisation’s reputation intact.

Within the scope of the IT budget a social media software management system (SMMS) will be a drop in the ocean but will address these major issues. Any smart IT Director will be already looking at a SMMS if they haven’t already got one in place. Such a system gives control back to the organisation. All passwords are held in one place so accounts are not owned by individuals, but by the company. It gives the organisation the ability to moderate content at a senior level, so the risk of misuse or mistakes can be eradicated.

A SMMS also takes care of the practical management issues. I fear that some organisations are taking a step backwards in terms of their technological evolution, reverting to time wasting, ineffective manual processing of social media e.g. multiple log in to different social media platforms rather than using readily available tools for automation and effectiveness.

So my big message – IT Directors you need to wake up, check and challenge when it comes to social media.

Marc Harris, Chief Technical Officer at CrowdControlHQ