The use of social media in the workplace has grown dramatically as people have become more - and more constantly - connected via mobile devices. Merriam-Webster offers a fairly common definition of social media: "forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content."
Some of that sounds great for business, right? After all, creating online communities and sharing information and ideas are basic goals of any business's marketing department. Frequently, however, organizations approach social media with suspicion and trepidation. These attitudes often lead to attempts to fully control its use that end up with managers frustrated by a lack of discipline, employees feeling that they're being treated like children, and everyone demoralized.
The impulse businesses have to control the use of social media is understandable. While there are many positive reasons to encourage the use of social media within an organization, without regulation and oversight, there can be just as many reasons for concern. It's easy for a brief distraction on Instagram while working to turn into an extended interruption, which can significantly lower productivity. For instance, have you ever thought to yourself, "I'll just take a five minute mental break and see if anything new has been posted on Twitter," only to realize 50 minutes later that you're running behind important deadlines? Or maybe you share that cute picture of your cat posted on Facebook with a co-worker, and it turns into a 30-minute conversation about how the fire department had to come and rescue that cat out of a tree in the pouring rain last winter. Potentially more critical than lost time, there are risks of confidential information being shared, valued employees attracted to other employers by their social media accounts, and sharing negative messages or inappropriate photos in danger of being seen by business associates.
Given its prevalence, it is extremely unlikely for any business to fully control the use of social media. That's kind of like trying to control water by grabbing onto it harder.
What's important, at a minimum, is to establish appropriate use of these media channels. Companies are highly encouraged to have a sensible social media policy to help set guidelines and rules around what is acceptable and what is not. In the policy, it will be important to address both personal social media accounts as well as postings and comments originating from company accounts. It's also valuable for people to remember that, in this day and age, even if something is deleted it is rarely ever really gone.
In the best scenarios, social media can be used by companies to increase engagement, sales, and reputation. Remember the active words from our definition earlier: 'create' and 'share'. Employers embracing social media with a positive outlook might enable employees to:
- Create awareness about product, company, and services through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms that are industry relevant
- Share the company culture, values, and events through stories and photographs as well as communicate testimonials and product updates
Well-deployed social media has the potential to help develop a company’s image and presence in the marketplace, resulting in increased business opportunities and growth. It can attract new hires and build professional connections, and it may inspire innovative ideas which motivate employees, creating a high level of employee engagement.
For additional general guidance regarding when and how to
regulate the use of social media, attend our complementary webinar:
Social Media in the Workplace
Friday, November 16th at 11:00am PST
When registering for the session, please ensure that you enter ‘Bennett/Porter & Associates’ in the registration field that reads “Please provide the name of the company that referred you to this webinar.”