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July 1, 2014

Facebook’s Lesson: Transparency is Key

By Karen J. Bannan

It is the type of news story that takes social media by storm. Facebook conducted an experiment with more than 700,000 users, deliberately altering news feeds so they appeared mostly positive or mostly negative. Dubbed by some as massive virtual mind game, the 2012 experiment designed to see if a news feed can spread emotions went viral once news broke.

I witnessed it on my own social media feeds. Some friends “put Facebook on notice.” Most expressed dismay and distrust of the network. While the chances that this could happen in a social business setting are slim, there’s something to be learned from Facebook’s purposeful manipulation. Trust is one of the most important elements needed to gain buy-in for online collaboration and communication and – once that trust has been breached – it can be difficult if not impossible to gain it back.

For the enterprise user, you can encourage trust by creating an acceptable use policy that lays out exactly what you expect from users and what they can expect from their social business experience as well. Are you going to be capturing every private conversation and thread within a social business platform (and many experts say you should) but not monitoring it? That’s fine, but let people know what you’re doing so the expectation of privacy is realistic. Is someone editing posts and documents used in a social business setting? That’s fine, too as long as you make it known ahead of time.

Those organizations that need a little help creating language around these topics can take a look at this acceptable use policy from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Even back in 2011 when it was created its authors were careful to let everyone know on page 4 in paragraph G that “Web-based collaboration tools…must be authorized, monitored, and moderated.” It also lets readers know that a privacy policy would be posted so that people could read and understand what kind of information related to their online use would be stored and accessible.

More recently, an even better resource was released. DigitalGov, the collaborative office within the General Services Administration, introduced three toolkits designed to improve social strategies. Although the toolkits were created for the public sector and its use of social media, there’s plenty there for the private sector to borrow from, ensuring the trust you start with will remain indefinitely.

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