Reading the quote below from Dave Armano reminded me of a conversation I had recently with Michelle Batten when she was in Madrid.

But social media’s not a product you foist on others, or some rigid business process that, if implemented, yields results. You shouldn’t treat social media like a temporary advertising campaign. Social media is more organic than that. It’s a way of thinking and approaching business that requires passion and commitment and, above all, willingness to participate in social spaces honestly and freely and by the rules of the social network itself.

The quote comes from an article discussing which department within a company should be the owner of social media initiatives, but in my mind the real issue is whether the company is eating what it serves to others. Is it talking social, or actually living social. In the airline world it is kind of like asking which executives are actually consuming the hot boxes served in long haul economy class at home as TV dinners!

But it really begs an even bigger question, and one that I don’t intend to answer in full here, as I am still working my way through all the airline blogs I’ve recently subscribed to. But it is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and even more so when I referenced the following quote recently:

I see no reason for any company not to blog—unless you’re sleazy. Every company needs a feedback system and the easiest way to do that is through a blog. It’s almost like a truth serum. It’s two-way marketing.

Are there companies where social media makes little or no sense at all – and if so, are airlines such businesses?

Back to my conversation with Michelle at a tapas bar over some red wine and pulpo a la gallega where we were discussing things vaguely related to the question above. My view was that social media is not for everyone – it implies a decentralization of the message, and for large companies used to command and control type communications, this is a very big shift indeed. There are two types of businesses that come to mind where blogging, or social media in general may not be appropriate. The first is the type of business where the brand is built on so much hype that exposing the inner workings of an organisation may actually be damaging to the carefully manufactured facade – luxury goods retailing of global brands would be a good example of this. The second example would be companies that have an antagonistic relationship with staff. A unionized coal mine wouldn’t really matter as there is no consumer brand to be damaged, but for an airline with tense labour relations, active engagement with social media could be a recipe for creating even more management headaches, especially if social initiatives are used to try and patch over things rather than as a broader initiative to actually change the corporate culture. The bottom line is that social media makes it much harder to hide things you want to keep hidden and unless you really trust your employees, maybe it is better to try and keep a lid on the genie in the bottle for a little while longer (wishful thinking?). Either that, or use social media as a tool for increased openness and for improving labour relations within the company; but it would take commitment from every level in the organisation, right up to the very top. Thinking about it some more, that could be a very interesting project indeed.