Why are Organizations Afraid of Social Media Websites?

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on March 7, 2011

in Diocese, parish, social media, Uncategorized

For a long time, highly structured, centrally organized hierarchies ran our corporations, non-profits and church groups. The people in power controlled information content and flow. That was how it was and everyone understood it. But a new age is upon us and the old systems are out of sync.

A few months ago, I was talking about the use of the Internet for ministry and someone asked me, “How do you control it?” She was very worried about the dangers—wasted time, loss of productivity, and worse.

My answer was that you cannot control it. You need to trust your people and give them guidelines to use technology appropriately when they are acting as part of your organization. Then you hold them accountable.

Fear of Virus Attacks
Some organizations, including dioceses and parishes, have such a high security level on their systems that staff cannot download content from the Vatican website, attend webinars, or even read my blog! They say that they are worried about virus attacks. To them we say get a good firewall and install virus and spyware protection. Keep it up to date. Just living involves some risk. In every other part of our lives, we take reasonable precautions and then go about our business. Why not do the same with the Internet?

Fear of Mistakes
Other organizations are afraid of what staff might say on social networks. Fear of losing control has to be replaced with a collaborative approach to the work of the organization. A shared vision among leaders, staff, and members for the good of the organization, mutual trust and accountability are essential. When a professional code of conduct and a culture of responsibility characterize our organizations, there is no reason to fear the Internet or social media. Sometimes mistakes will occur.  Let’s correct them and learn from them.  They are not the end of the world.

Fear of Criticism
Some leaders may be afraid of opening themselves to criticism, complaints, and questions they can’t or don’t want to answer. Think about it. Every comment, good or bad (and it is very possible that there will be some good ones) is an opportunity to teach, to explain, to correct a misunderstanding, to respond honestly and perhaps learn how we might do things better in the future. Is that so bad?

New Systems are Needed
Leaders have a responsibility to provide professional ministry staff with the resources they need to do their work. Today, that usually includes a workspace, a phone, and a computer. We need to add to that list a company email address and easy access to the Internet including social media websites. But even that is not enough.  We need to examine the way we operate. Transparency, collaboration, and flexibility in our internal and external relationships need to be hallmarks of our organizations. They also need to influence the way we engage on social networks. This is the new world to which we are called to bring the Good News. Have courage. Do not be afraid. We can do this!

That’s what I think. What about you?  Your comments are most welcome. 

If this article was helpful to you, please share it with others.

Image: nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Marc Cardaronella March 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I think the reason is the fear of losing control. The first thing people tell me their afraid of in regard to social media is bad comments. What if someone posts a bad comment on their Facebook page or website…that’s the first thing people think about.

The thing is, people are already saying all kinds of nasty things about the Church online. And we’re not saying anything against it! That’s the deal with the new media. You can’t control it. But burying your head in the sand and not acknowledging it won’t solve any problems either. The only way to control it is to work in it yourself. Get your own positive message out and make it more accepted and more trusted than the negative ones.

Jonathan Sullivan March 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I agree with Marc — we need to get over this idea that negative comments are a threat. I see them as an invitation to engagement and an opportunity to evangelize. Parishes could get a lot more out of social media if they adopted an evangelizing attitude.

Sr. Dion Horrigan March 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with what you have written in such a succinct style. Thanks. The lead-in to your article, Susan, has well-chosen words: “For a long time highly structured, centrally organized hierarchies ran our corporations, non-profits and church groups.” Modern technology and its expanding potential become the new field where we are to sow the seed of the gospel. All of this represents a great paradigm shift. What has been for “a long time” IS no longer. It does not work. And that’s not bad.

I was just thinking that often I hear that in our day and age we need to become bilingual in order to speak the language of those to whom and with whom we minister. I think it’s true that learning and using the language of the technological world is much like becoming bilingual to meet the needs of the world today.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }