Facebook and the woes of a Corporate Communicator

In his recent post, Canuckflack asks “what do internal comms have to offer in the face of self-assembling employee groups?” To paraphrase him, corporate communications are dead, at least in the traditional sense. As a member of the Corporate Communications team for a company myself, this is a bit hard, albeit possibly necessary, to say. As he so aptly points out, we’ve been subjected to copy that has gone through the fine-tooth comb of corporate approval so many times it is often meaningless. As a result, employees have turned to social networking in order to interact and learn about their coworkers.

The actual corporate information about new procedures, training, and meetings that was intermingled with this social intrigue is now being left in the dust.

Is the choice, then, for corporate communications to go to where the employees are?

This raises a number of interesting problems. For one, I am not totally sure how employees will feel about being contacted by their company on a social networking site. It is one thing for employees to band together and create their group. In this case, I’m not totally sure if the “if you build it, they’ll come” mentality will work. I feel that too many employees would worry that, despite privacy settings, management would be able to spy on their online activities. For many (and with good reason), there is a divide between social areas and work areas, online and off.

There is also the management concern that if you sanction the use of social networking sites at work, productivity will drop. I’m sure that a huge number of employees are already checking Facebook during the day anyways (and can tell that they are based on the status updates, wall messages, and so on that I see from not only my colleagues but from friends who work at other companies). In this case, inserting a bit of corporate info into the loop certainly can’t be a bad thing.

If the decision was mine, utilizing social networking to disseminate corporate information would be the go. However, I feel that most companies are not there yet, and it will be some time before we see this kind of integration.

Are there any thoughts from the blogosphere on this issue? How would you feel if your company chose to communicate with you in this manner?