Although the UAW has averted a strike, for now, the UAW quickly learned the power and influence of social media.

Earlier this month, the UAW was criticized for not using social media to educate their workers about the details of the agreement with Fiat Chrysler. Citing a lack of information, the workers rejected the agreement, leading to a potential strike.

For labor and for business, social media is both a tool to listen to your members, your partners and those who may oppose your efforts. It is also your personal news channel to broadcast and control your own messages, targeting the people to whom you want them to reach. By utilizing online social media resources such as Facebook and Twitter, you can share information, host a conversation and communicate quickly and easily with consumers or followers.

The media covering the UAW and the strike also rely on the information posted on Facebook and search for clues on Twitter from inside the plant gate to report on first.  

Today’s workforce is mobile and are on Facebook more often than at home watching television or even reading a newspaper.  Therefore, they are taping the power of social media, accessing it on their smart phones at home or inside the plants, making it far more valuable then gathering at the union hall.

As a result, these recent events involving the UAW, are evidence that business and labor must commit to a stronger digital strategy, leveraging the website and social media channels as the primary media for disseminating messages and setting the record straight. However, it is vital that you determine the best social media channels for your organization and create a social media plan around those sites. For example, while Facebook worked recently for the UAW, involving the potential of a strike, they also had a website that was updated regularly and provided the option to receive updates by TXT, which still seems to be extremely valuable for virtually any demographic.

Traditional media’s influence is waning. Social media has flattened the playing field, allowing companies to disseminate the information they want, to whomever they want, whenever and however they want. There’s no longer a need to wait for a journalist to file a story— if companies want their audiences to know something, they can just post it to their blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.  

If you’re still deciding whether or not to maintain a social media presence, the answer should almost surely be yes. Your audiences aren’t waiting for you to interact— they’re already talking about you. Companies that engage their audiences can build positive relationships, create a reservoir of goodwill to tap into when a crisis strikes, and help prevent false rumors from spreading before they take deep root.

As it relates to labor issues, business should consult several recent NLRB decisions on the use of social media in the workplace and by employees while on strike. For example, in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in Weigand v NLRB upheld an NLRB decision finding a local branch of the Amalgamated Transit Union could not be held responsible for allegedly threatening entries posted on its private Facebook page by its members during a strike with Veolia Transportation Services.

Regardless of any legal limitation by the NLRB, FTC or SEC, companies and unions must tap the power of the social network.