BLG Leadership Insights

Should Leaders Use Social Networking Websites?

Social networking used to be pretty easy: it started with a handshake and, if you were lucky, it ended with one.

Now social networking, thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, has become a 24/7 personal marketing campaign that involves pictures, well trimmed personal statements, and a brand of status anxiety only the Internet can produce.

Acquiring and managing networks (a.k.a. friends) online has developed it’s own prickly set of rules and nuances. Apparently, it’s a faux pas to tell ex-girlfriends on Facebook what you had for breakfast but if you ‘tweeted’ it (meaning you posted it on Twitter) you’d generate many appreciative comments, responses, and recipe requests.

Still, I don’t know all the “laws” of online social networking. And if a book were to be published on the subject it would be out of date before it reached Barnes & Nobles.

During 2008’s election both Barack Obama and John McCain used Facebook and created their own social networking platforms to raise money and create a ‘dialogue’. It worked for both candidates–money was raised, “friends” were accepted, and everyone felt good knowing their candidate was a click away. It was good politics.

However, what about in the business realm? Should CEOs, team leaders, and retail managers use social networking sites to bond with employees?

The obvious benefits may include the creation of a team atmosphere, the implementation of a fun way to communicate with staff, and, speaking frankly, a way too spy check-up on your employees.

Yet, the apparent negatives seem hefty. As a leader if you ask to be someone’s ‘friend’ on a social networking site, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin, you’re asking to see a sliver of their private side. That’s a big step and it’s akin to randomly knocking on an employees door unannounced. You might not be invited in–much to the embarrassment of both parties.

I’d say leaders can befriend their staff on social networking sites but only if their real world relationship is strong.

However, I don’t yet know the full story and am interested in hearing what everyone here has to say on the subject. Should leaders actively recruit their staff into their online networks? Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?