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Social Media in India and Implications for Internal Communications

I am writing to share my article – Social Media Take Shape in India published in the November-December 2011 edition of Communication World (CW), the magazine of the International Association of Business Communicators devoted exclusively to communication management. You can download the entire copy here: CW_NovDec2011_AP_SocialMediaIndia.

Published bimonthly, CW covers the latest in communication research, global perspectives, technology, best practices and trends through in-depth reports and insightful interviews. Founded in 1970, The International Association of Business Communicators provides a professional network of about 15,000 business communication professionals in over 80 countries.

The article discusses the growing interest of social media in India, outlines the opportunities that internal communicators can tap and recommends solutions to manage this trend. It also includes a case study on how inclusive strategies can drive adoption.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a B-school campus and gauge students’ reactions to the raging social media user-content pre-approval debate that is on in India. For those not clued in – India’s Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal is seeking web content screening to avoid hurting religious sentiments and damaging our cultural ethos.

The group discussion topic on the impact that censoring user content has on HR and organizations received mixed reactions. While privacy and freedom of expression topped their concerns there were very limited thoughts on the challenges that HR had on hand and how they might need to tackle the situation.

For example, with the world’s youngest workforce in India and almost everyone on social networking sites does HR know and have the resources and expertise to manage fallouts?

Can HR, internal communicators and organizations see this as an opportunity to win the hearts and minds of its people?

Do you know how active your staff is on social media sites? Employees of a few organizations lead the way.

Where will the organization draw a line between a personal comment and a professional misconduct? Can you gag employees from speaking in public? Isn’t a great idea and even internal communication that tells people to toe the line often find their way externally. The recent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail plan in India led many organizations to clamp down on employees speaking up. Throwing policy at people during those circumstances indirectly sends a message that the organization is less prepared, isn’t sure of their stand, don’t trust staff and much more.

With employees moving jobs frequently and social networking sites opening up staff for poaching can HR play a role in moderating the environment?

Can organizations facilitate discussions internally so that conversations don’t spill outside?

While the government is continuing its dialogue with key websites there is also lobbying and pressure from countries that will be impacted by curbs online.

A social media policy isn’t the solution. Now is the time to listen, engage and define the new world order inside organizations.

 As always, I am interested in your thoughts.

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