Quick: when you think downside to social media use, what comes to mind? For me, the first is time and the constant struggle I have with the illusive return on investment. The second – this is as an educator – is how much do I really want to know about my students? In general I love getting to know them as people, but I still remember the discomfort I felt at learning more personal information than I really wanted about a student who became my Facebook friend.
Managing Social Media Risks, by Bridget McCrea in T.H.E. Journal, covers another downside associated with the growing use of social media in educational settings: reputation damage. The article makes the excellent point that “many organizations and institutions prefer to ignore the problem” but that they should be active and diligent instead. Guidelines are mentioned, but they need to be created in a way that doesn’t stifle the exact point of social media, and, of course, they need to be enforced.
I especially liked the comment following the article from David M. Adler, Esq.:
Many of our clients are asking for guidance on how to go about implementing social media as part of their online marketing strategy. First, we counsel clients to understand that employees are going to use social media with or without them. For companies seeking to leverage the social media frenzy the question is not “How do I control these relationships but, rather, “How do I leverage the value of all these relationships?” Second, we counsel clients to understand that they are building a social reputation, so it shouldn’t be frivolous or uninteresting. Lastly, we counsel clients to focus on strategies that empower employees to become brand ambassadors, increase knowledge, share ideas and information and promote collaboration.
The rest of his comment is also insightful, and relevant to any organization, educational or otherwise. NIOSH is one of many organizations working through exactly these issues. But while organizations are dealing with social media risks, much of it still comes back to individuals. In the case of NIOSH, it’s one person who tweets and hopes to continue doing so without too many restrictions imposed. And in my case, I’ll return to my initial point: the biggest risk, I believe, is time management.