I received an interesting question last month from a transportation communications professional trying to convince her organization to invest time and energy in social media. Yes, even in 2014 there are organizations that are still unsure of whether connecting with customers in the social space is the right strategy.
The question from the transportation pro was simple enough. Her directors were concerned about security for the organization’s network and IT infrastructure.
“One issue that keeps resurfacing is security. The idea is using social media will offer up chances for our system to be hacked, confidential and employee information to be stolen, etc.”
I turned the question over to the folks at the Facebook Transportation Social Media Group, and the responses were tremendous. If you don’t have much time to read what they said, let me summarize: Social media security is really not a big concern if you are careful about how the accounts and passwords are managed.
However, there is much to be considered in the question.
Indeed, the Facebook group comments generally suggested that two-step authentication is a great way to keep social media accounts secure. The focus, according to experts, should be on educating the staff charged with managing social media channels. The best security is to properly train staff on how social media tools work, and on the best ways in which to share information in those channels.
“It’s not necessarily the tool being used that is the security risk. It’s what’s being shared and educating staff empowered to represent your agency on what to share on social platforms,” wrote one group contributor.
For instance, certain content is better suited for Pinterest or Facebook. Vine might be an excellent tool for brief videos, but it may not be the best place to engage a broad base of commuters during a transportation emergency.
Another thoughtful Facebook group comment suggested that the question about security shows a bias and disconnect between IT professionals and communications staffs. The conflict between the two camps has shown itself in annual AASHTO social media surveys and during my personal discussions with transportation communicators. And that conflict comes down to different world views.
IT staffs are charged with ensuring the networks and equipment attached to the networks function as designed. Their interest is not necessarily in ensuring that the organization’s brand is connecting well with customers. From what I’ve seen, IT pros view the system as their customer.
Meanwhile, communications is naturally outward focused. We are wired to creatively engage with our customers in whatever ways make the most sense and have the biggest impact, with little regard for, or understanding of, how the tools themselves work. Think about it. A gardener does not ask how a leaf blower works. Nor does she need to understand the intricacies of a small two-stroke weed eater engine.
Communications is the same way. We don’t necessarily need to know how the internet reaches our computer, or smartphone or tablet. Deep awareness of the software that drives Twitter is of little use to the practitioner.
However, IT and communications staffs can come together – and should. Like the gardener, the communication pro must take care of their tools and must work to ensure they last in good condition for as long as possible.
Therefore, we should be conscious of security. We should do our best to consider the concerns of the IT staffs and to work to assuage those concerns as much as possible. After all, as my friend and colleague Andy Palanisamy (@transportgooru) commented to the Facebook group, “IT folks usually find ways to throw road blocks when they sense heavy network usage, often citing threat to network security. That said, in this day and age anything and everything connected to the internet can be hacked.”
We need those IT folks as much as the gardener needs the lawnmower repairman. Ensuring we’re doing our best to keep things safe and secure is the least we can do to ensure a lasting positive relationship.