Why Corporations Aren’t Good at Social Media

elephant butteA few weeks ago (time flies!), David and I drove to Tucson for my mom’s birthday. On the way back, we stopped at Elephant Butte Lake for a couple of nights. It’s a huge, man-made reservoir on the Rio Grande River in southern New Mexico. The landscape is often stark and desolate – and also full of amazing color and unearthly views.

We haven’t been doing much in the way of vacation lately – particularly time that’s not connected to work of some sort, like conventions – so this was a peaceful stop to make.  The inn we stayed at was a simple place and we ate mainly at the restaurant there. We spent some time gazing at the view and talking. This picture brings that feeling back for me.

So, many of you know I have a day job. The company I work for had about 150 employees when I started, lo these 17 years ago, and has now cracked 500. We’ve also gone to a shared technology system, with a newsfeed we’re all encouraged to post notices, too. Our internal version of social media. I’ve been trying to overcome my baseline grumpiness about the changes and become more active with this shared site.

Because I work from home (euphemistically referred to as a “satellite office”), I decided to post my cover for THE MARK OF THE TALA. After all, if I worked in one of the offices, I would have dragged my ARC in and passed it around like a newborn baby. Also, since this book is not erotica, I figured it was safe to share.

I didn’t want to take up a lot of the feed with information about my book though, so I just posted the cover and a note saying people could look on my website if they wanted to see more.


Last night my supervisor emails me and lets me know that they took the post down. There’s no fall-out for me and the powers that be figure I showed only a “rare lack of judgment.” See, my website contains offensive material. Or, rather, provides access to it, which is against our Information Resource Policy.

(Doesn’t the Entire Internet provide this access???)

So, thus my wrist was slapped. Nobody is mad at me, but I feel oddly chagrined nonetheless. It’s been some time since I had any shadow of feeling that what I write is somehow unsavory. Yet, there it is. 

(Amusingly, I linked to my website instead of oh, say, Amazon because it seemed wrong to post anything reminiscent of a buy link. I suspect that would have passed muster, even though Amazon ALSO provides access to all those selfsame offensive materials as my website does.)

It’s interesting to me, however, in a broader perspective, to watch companies like mine try to cultivate the opportunities offered by social media while simultaneously attempting to enforce policies that control it. Social media is social, not corporate. It’s about people interacting, not soulless, sexless workers. What my company is trying to accomplish isn’t *really* about social media at all, but something dressed up to look like it. Kind of an Office Space-style version of Hawaiian Shirt Day, where we’re encouraged to relax – but not too much.

At any rate, consider me duly chastened. And more unwilling than before to post to the company newsfeed.

Fortunately, no one expects me to participate in Hawaiian Shirt Day.

Corporate Dodgeball

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

Never mind that one almost never gets to use “equipage” in a sentence anymore. What gets me is that people would loook at you funny for using the word equipage and then turn around and talk about leveraging something.

Can you tell I was on a conference call yesterday for my day job?

We were discussing a new area of work and several of the company graybeards were on the call. Not that any of these guys (or gals) actually has a gray beard, but you get my meaning. One of them made a wise observation on the state of the field and paused significantly after, to allow his meaning to sink in. And I thought: I knew that. Everyone on this call knows that. But he has the gray beard. I’m just someone who wonders why we never hear the word “equipage” anymore.

It’s a funny thing, being both a writer and a worker-bee. Not just a worker-bee, I suppose, but upwardly mobile, career-track, middle-management. I like my job. I love the people I work with. I appreciate that they show their appreciation of me by paying me well and giving me good benefits. But I can’t talk about leveraging something with a straight face.

Fortunately I don’t have to, since I’m on the phone and can roll my eyes as often as I want to.

In the end though, I feel like I’m still playing dodgeball. The gym is filled with kids, some loving it, some hating it, some pretending to love it, so the loving-it-kids will like them. The aggressive boys do best — hurling balls with vicious speed at any target. Exulting in taking someone out. Only when the timid kid, who spends all her time ducking, is left all alone to represent her team, do they notice her. The aggressive boys turn their attention to her. They are sidelined, but if she catches one ball, just one, they’ll sweep in and take over the field, returning the team to glory. They shout, encourage, exhort. They want the win. She wants the game to be over, so she can read more of her book before the next class.

I’m an asset to my company. I’m not the timid girl who’d rather be hiding in the bathroom, chosen for the team from the default pool of last picks. But sometimes I think the game will always go to the ones who thrive on the hard and fast throw, who love the flash of pain in an opponent’s eye, who relish the shuffling walk of the target to the sideline.

A friend of mine says life is a team sport. And I believe the sports players see it that way. I wonder if they ever see how the quiet members of their teams are dreaming of other worlds, seeing glass coaches and watching to see if the blackbirds are shadowing us.