Social media

Can a global startup avoid plane travel?

by Fred Abramson on July 12, 2010 · 0 comments

There is an interesting guest post on Techcrunch  Europe by Richard Leyland, an entrepreneur who started WorkSnug, a location-based service for mobile workers. His company has launched in sixteen cities and may be considered a global company.

What is unique about his company is its committment that none of his employees will fly in the course of its business.  His employees travel via cars and trains.  The reason: climate change.  According to Mr. Leyland flying is far from the only factor causing climate change, but as an example of our wasteful fossil fuel addiction it really takes the biscuit.

So how is his company doing? The first thing they have done is take to the trains. He reports that trains are more difficult to book, more expensive and a longer journey. But trains are excellent for concentrated work, they drop his employees in the middle of cities and airport stress is relieved.

Worksnug also relies on technology.  Like 37signals, another innovative startup, Worksnug has interviewed and hired employees using Skype. They also report using social media tools, such as Twitter to stay connected with their employees.

Mr. Leyland admits that there is nothing revolutionary happening at his company.  After all, you do all these things too.  The simple act of  abandoning the plane is unique.

What do you think?  Is it possible for your company to forgo air travel?

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I have a friend who is an accountant at a small firm. Lets call him Cliff.  Cliff greets everyone with a compliment and is an ace accountant.  Cliff surfs the internet at work.  Cliff was recently on Twitter,  looking for people to follow.  He becomes Twitter “friends” with Samantha, an accountant at Hobes and Hobes, a rival firm.  From the looks of Samantha’s avatar, she is attractive.

Samantha asks Cliff to meet him at a bar after work. After a few dirty martinis, Cliff tells Samantha that his accounting firm is about to land Giggle, a big, funny internet company. Samantha buys the next round and that was the last thing he remembers.  He wakes up the next morning and finds out that Hobes and Hobes has landed the Giggle account.

Does your company block access to social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin because you are afraid of employees like Cliff? Is the work environment at your workplace hostile to employees who blog? If so, your company is part of the majority of organizations that have a restrictive social networking policy.

While a strict social networking policy is a simple way of limiting legal liability, do you really think that your company can compete in a 24 hour a day workplace with outdated policies? Probably not.  If your company is  struggling with how to integrate social media into the workplace, one way to focus is by creating a social media policy with an eye toward collaboration.

The Harvard Business Review observes that businesses are discovering that an über-connected work environment is not just about implementing a new set of tools — it is also about embracing a cultural shift to create an open environment where employees are encouraged to share, innovate and collaborate virtually.   Some benefits of a hyper-social company include:

  • Access to social media improves productivity;
  • Millennials will seek jobs that encourage the use of social media;
  • Companies that provide access to social media create a more engaged workforce.

After creating your hyper-social networking policy, it is then vital to address its legal implications, which I addressed previously in Legal Reasons Why Your Company Should Have a Social Networking Policy.

CONCLUSION

Employees are online whether you like it or not.  By simply banning the use of social networking sites on company computers, your employees will simply use smartphones to stay connected. By thinking expansively about social media, more specifically about using it for increased productivity and collaboration, there is great opportunity for growth.  Have your ideas written in the form of a social media policy, which will put your employees on notice of any potential legal problems. By the way, Cliff is not real. But he could be and you can be responsible for Cliff’s actions without a written social networking policy.

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Why You Need to Practice Giving Value

by Fred Abramson on October 28, 2009 · 0 comments

I have recently started reading The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz. The book, written in 1959, has been getting a lot of ink lately because his ideas are classic. Business thought leaders such as Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss cite the book as required reading.

Mr. Schwartz suggests that we should practice giving value.

  • Practice adding value to things. Look for ideas to make things worth more
  • Practice adding value to people. As you move higher and higher in the success world, more and more of your job becomes people development. Look for ways that you can help others. Take a look at your contacts and find ways to connect them.
  • Practice giving value to yourself. You need to ask yourself everyday what can you do to make yourself more valuable today. With social media, you can make yourself more valuable by writing a blog.

Let me know of your action steps towards providing more value.

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Today I had a discussion with a friend who works as an insurance defense attorney for a large insurance company.  While sitting on a comfy sofa at Book Review in Huntington, Long Island, I began perusing a copy of The Whuffle Factor by Tara Hunt.  The book is about the importance of creating and implementing social capital. We then discussed its applicability to her job. Does social media have any place for an in-house insurance defense attorney?

Her opinion was a resounding no.  As an employee at an insurance company, she has no clients.  Why bother with social media if you are not looking to connect with anyone? I then asked whether she thought it was important to find out more about opposing counsel through researching their profiles on social networking sites?  She said that it was not worth the effort.

Lastly, I asked whether it should be common practice for her to view the social profiles of opposing plaintiff’s.  For example, wouldn’t it be helpful to view the Facebook page of an injured plaintiff?  What if the there is a current photograph of him playing soccer if he is claiming injury to a torn meniscus?  Wouldn’t it help your case?  She said that she thought that there would be a problem in getting the page into evidence (I certainly don’t agree with her there.)

Do you think my friend is right?  Is there a place for social media for Insurance Defense Attorneys?

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Your employees are probably participating in social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But what are your workers doing on Facebook while on the clock? Are they networking or are they sharing their 5 favorite beers? On the one hand, you want to trust your employees and make them feel like they have autonomy to perform their work duties. On the other hand, you are paying them to work and you want them to present themselves professionally.

Recently, staffers of The Wall Street Journal were provided a compiled list of rules for “professional conduct” which regulates online behavior. Should your company follow the lead of the Wall Street Journal and draft a written social networking policy advising what your employees can post while working at the office? If you would like to limit potential company liability to lawsuits, the answer is yes. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. A written social networking policy may shield your Company from defamation lawsuits. What happens if your employee starts posting on Facebook untrue statements about a competitor? Without a written social networking policy, your Company could be sued for defamation.

2. Potential disclosure of Company proprietary information. Let’s say that your business has created the next killer app that will be ready to launch in 3 months. By having a non-disclosure section written into your social networking policy, your employee would be on notice and could be held liable for posting on LinkedIn such information.

3. Your business’s social networking use policy should encourage positive and constructive use of the social networking sites, as well as to prevent the use of such sites for personal or inappropriate reasons. You could be held liable for anything that your employees say of a personal nature on social networking sites.

4. Potential use in litigation. Information disseminated by your employees on social networking sites can be uncovered by a potential adversary and used against your company in litigation. Therefore, you should be clear about the type of topics that can be discussed on social networking sites.

5. Intellectual Property. Trademark and Copyright laws extend to what your post on social networking sites. Your social networking policy should make clear that your employees should refrain from posting trademarked or copyrighted material while representing the company.
So, your Company should regulate social networking use in a more expanded way than the way you regulate other Internet use. By being upfront about the potential problems of social networking, you could help both you and your employees successfully utilize this tool and avoid unwanted lawsuits.

Further Resource:

Online database of social networking policies.

Contact the Law Office of Frederic R. Abramson at 212-233-0666 for more information about social networking policies.

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