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Before the Advent of Social Media

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Horace Blake
December 16, 2014

In today’s society, from a global perspective social media is all the rage. That has changed how we function with each other as well as how we conduct business. From the simple daily communication to how we seek employment, social media is there. Despite its popularity there are a variety of demographics in the general public that are not very versed in utilizing this section of the information age. This creates a technology deficit.

Blake decSocial media can be any of the popular websites or those sponsored by very large organizations that are either for profit or nonprofit. The notion of social media takes the conversation to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, where he hypothesized that within every human being there exists a hierarchy of five needs. One of the higher needs that are expressly relevant is social. This includes belongingness, acceptance and friendship. This is where social media takes on a very opportunistic role. With the importance of information technology, social media has made inroads as being one of the most important parts of modern life for personal everyday communication.

Before Social Media to the Information Age

Before social media we communicated more personally whether it was by regular mail, telephone or personal visits. Although information traveled at a slower pace, it had a personal touch. When in need of information it would require making a trip to the federal, state, county or municipal office or request that information through the regular mail.

With access to the Internet and information technology we are able to download very important information that is at times voluminous or interactive. When technological applications are part of the dynamics, opinions are needed as to the satisfaction and ease of access in accomplishing these desired tasks.

For example, the federal government annually publishes the U.S. Government Manual, the state and many local governments now operates websites which identifies all agencies and departments from which to access valuable information. Many public and university libraries in the past would require on-site visits to gather needed information. With the information age at its best all that is required most of the time is a password to access volumes of readily available information. This is considered as the model that moves from document-centric compliance to interaction–based requirement that is social media.

Current Knowledge of Best Available Practices for Organizations

Social media keeps reinventing itself as technology continues to be innovative. There is no exclusivity in terms of its usage or storage. Therefore caution is one way in which to embrace this controlled device. Other considerations to be keen on surveying are:

  • Adhering to embrace solutions that govern areas such as internal interactions, where the organization will expressly capture and control interaction of employees.
  • Social sites, such as a corporate Twitter or Facebook, where the organization is the owner of the device and the network would not need permission from the employees due to their established governance mechanism or protocol.
  • Organizations that permit external based interactions by employees and allow them to opt out or to register a social media account. This would permit the organization to basically monitor if the employee was giving out information about the organization, its other employees or any trade secret.
  • From a legal standpoint focusing on meanings or potential risks that would mitigate any potential for problems, while integrating any insights toward interaction that would increase customer satisfaction or promote products toward a best value outcome.
  • Organizations that purposefully capture communication will want to address any interactions that would include personal and private information such as health related discussions or might be sexual orientation, financial information, non –business related issues or information, political, personal, and religious or interests in a particular organization outside of the business.
  • From the legal profession their still exist unclear rules governing or monitoring of social media posting, even with recent court cases the matter is far from settled.

Organizations and Governance of Social Media

In human resource management, care has to be taken in terms of managing the use of social media during work time. Before rules governing the use of social media can be enacted, there needs to be very specific and outlined requirements as to who, when, what is allowed and the purpose. Human resources departments may use social media to recruit, train or publish job opportunities or to send out general information to internal and external interests. However it is not the time for frivolous chatter with friends or to access sites that may be deemed offensive to other employees.

Rating a series of circumstances toward social governance is an opportunity to be on the best side of any legal requirements or any inconsistencies. Some of the items to take into consideration are:

  • Balancing, enforcing and monitoring legal aspects of social media policies.
  • Understanding the rights of the organization versus the employees.
  • Determining if there are there particular social networks that are preferred on the job over others.
  • Training staff members on policies and procedures governing this social media.
  • Developing plans to mitigate any employee missteps in order to adhere to damage control.

The more recent accounts of legal scrutiny, with its keen approach to managing social media, went through the court system. Keeping in mind that new challenges are emerging as employees will suggest that a particular site is outside the scope of any documented policies or agreement between employers and their employees.

The Power of Social Media

Social media is important as it fits into the context of promoting and communicating high technology. With that said, there exist a digital divide especially in developing countries. The discourse about the digital divide remains evident. There is not enough infrastructure for many nations to become current in the 21st century. This is needed to fully utilize social media with all its pending opportunities.


Author:  Horace A. Blake is a three-term City Commissioner with 20 years combined community action experience at the municipal and state level. Blake currently serves on the Storm Water Management Team, working with the city and the community in water management, education and sustainable related issues. Blake is also the current treasurer of ASPA’s Section on Public Law and Administration (SPLA). He can be reached at [email protected].

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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