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Someone’s Always Watching: Social media’s role in accountability

Posted on March 22, 2016

Social media: it’s a force. I hesitate to say “good” or “evil” because it is both, and neither, all at once. The user is responsible for the outcome for good or ill. It’s been used to spread love just as much as hate.

Its power, however, is undeniable. With social media, anyone with a big enough following, or is just lucky enough to go “viral”, is a journalist, whether they like it or not.

This crowdsourced news posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other networks results in instant and far-reaching knowledge of events, both good and bad. Usually, the bad gets more attention. Hence the medium’s role in accountability for all types of businesses, including construction. No one wants to deal with a potentially reputation-destroying social media scandal. Businesses can control only the content they post, not the content individuals post about them. However, by staying accountable, scandalous situations are less likely to occur and easier to fix.

It’s no secret that the construction industry is a dangerous one. We work with heavy equipment, sometimes in precarious situations, and unfortunately accidents do happen. The regulations that govern our industry, set forth by OSHA, are set in place to protect contractors and construction workers as well as the general public and environment. That’s where social media comes in: the general public is always watching and they notice when you’re breaking rules, even if they don’t actually know the rules. They care about the lives of people, the environment and their home. Using the power of social media, they won’t let you get away with negligence if they can help it.

Construction sites are conspicuous, especially in densely populated urban environments. There are hundreds, even thousands of eyes watching all the time. People will snap photos, tweet, blog, tag or mentioning your business or the location of the build site. They’ll notice when a contractor is breaking rules, and they’ll broadcast the incident instantly and loudly. Negligence, incompetence, and deliberate disregard of rules will not go unnoticed! When one pair of eyes looks away, three more land on your job site. A contractor’s accountability is no longer just to their client and the law (which aren’t necessarily always watching). We are accountable to everyone, and that’s not a bad thing; it keeps us honest.

Social media can save lives by keeping contractors accountable when they become comfortable with regulations or tempted to cut corners. Developers and general contractors soon learn of any breach and can identify the situation by watching social media activity related to their project. They quickly can assess the hazardous condition, educate the employees responsible, and implement a plan of action to remedy the situation. Lives can be saved, potential hazards can be avoided, and the outcome for everyone is better. The responsible party will be corrected, most importantly educated, and the business’ reputation can stay intact. It’s a win-win!