There's new fear among business owners based on the recent hubbub at Reddit after the firing of Victoria Taylor and the subsequent "exit" of CEO Ellen Pao. Although most companies don't have 36 million users or even thousands of employees, many are afraid that the kind of discontent voiced so passionately by Reddit users could happen to them as well. What if this discontent experienced a tipping point and caught fire in a LinkedIn group, for example, or someone's private Facebook page? Could customers or employees become so incensed that the situation goes viral for them as well? ? I'm sensing a kind of panic right now. The kneejerk reaction seems to be a lock down of online policies, and micromanagement of organic engagement on social media. The justification for this behavior is that without the internet, this wouldn't happen, right? WRONG.
The internet doesn't cause problems, it brings them to light. What happened at Reddit is a communication problem, and as far as I'm concerned it's lucky that the internet brought it to their attention. When I was a manager in the 1990's, it could be impossible to know what was being said over lunch, or on the phone, or at happy hour. Sometimes we didn't know there was a problem until a costly trend in turnover brought it to our attention, and that could take months. I covered a territory with nine profit centers in six states, plus a corporate headquarters 1,000 miles away. I tried as hard as I could to meet with employees and customers as much as possible, trying to ferret out possible issues before they caused real damage to the bottom line. Occasionally someone would come and talk to me about an issue, but it had to get pretty bad for someone to email me, or worse, pick up the phone. Problems didn't boil over quickly, they percolated behind the scenes causing much more damage.
Arka Ray is the CEO of Sidelines, a company that develops engaged native ad experiences. His recent commentary about Reddit and community management is so relevant when he says