“How do you find the time to manage all of this social media stuff?” That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked whenever I present. And sometimes, I get the sense that people are hoping that it’s so complicated and time-consuming that they’ll have a great excuse NOT to do it. Not to learn [...]
Social Media Policy Essential For All Workplaces
Many employers are struggling to get their head around social media. As it continues to grow and slowly seeps into the business environment, a variety of communication opportunities have emerged. Increasingly, social media is becoming an important tool for business. However, with this comes a blurring of the lines between personal and professional and increases risks for businesses.
With the prolific use of social media, its mobility, its immediacy and many-to-many structure, employers need to pay attention.
Workplace issues around social media are still emerging. Generational, professional and educational differences all contribute to how individuals engage with the space, thus dividing opinions on how to handle this HR issue. The issues can be complex and involve both internal (inside of work hours) and external (outside of work hours) concerns.
Primarily, one of the fundamental questions in workplaces is whether employees should have access to social media platforms.
Some argue that access is disruptive and can decrease productivity, while others argue that social media is not distracting. What employers need to note is that a complete ban on social media access in the workplace probably will not work.
Firstly, Gen Y consider Internet and social media access a ‘benefit' of employment. Therefore, it can be used as an incentive for retaining staff. Secondly, hand held devices make it harder for employers to control usage. How can employers stop employees using their iPhones? And thirdly, there will always be distractions in the workplace. Humans are not robots so there will be a social element.
Also importantly, what employees say on their personal social media sites is relevant to employers. Some say that this doesn't concern them, however, this is essentially a flawed argument. If an individual posts comments about their employer, which are negative, these have consequences.
There are numerous examples of employee bad behaviour on social media which have caused damage to a business and their reputation.
Employees need to be aware that what they post is public information whether their settings are set to ‘private' or not. Social media is different to having a whinge with friends where only a handful of individuals will hear what you say. Once something is posted online, it is there for all to see and if it goes ‘viral' managing the risks are almost impossible to manage as the damage can be done within minutes.
The key issue is that employers can't control what employees say on their personal social media platforms. So what is the solution? Balance and common sense is advisable. And every workplace should have a Social Media Policy that makes it clear what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
A good social media policy can be extremely valuable in managing risks and providing guidelines to employees and should be tailored to the culture of the workplace. As the prevalence of social media use continues to increase, employers need to communicate to their employees what their expectations are in respect to social media. Even though a policy may not stop an employee writing negative comments about their employer, it does provide the employer with some flexibility in how to deal with the situation.
Without a social media policy, businesses are leaving their reputation in the hands of others.
No one policy will work for all organisations. However, here are some general guidelines when implementing a Social Media Policy:
- Implement a social media policy alongside your Internet and email policy
- Include a definition of social media - with so many platforms, your employees need to be aware exactly what you mean when you use the term ‘social media'
- Include a description of social media behaviour - what is acceptable and what isn't? For example, when can social media be used - during breaks or is flexibility preferred?
- Make sure employees are aware there is a policy - it is accessible to them with training of appropriate usage and expectations
- What are the consequences of breaking the social media policy? These must be documented and employees made aware of what will happen.
There is no doubt the use of social media in the workplace has become a hot issue. Social media is now part of the dynamic and changing world of communication in the 21st century. These issues need to be managed by employers, as they are genuine and here to stay.
A blocking strategy is an overreaction that should be avoided, as employees will resent it. A collaborative approach to social media is more desirable and more in tune with a modern workforce.
You might be interested in this upcoming event...
NEW: Social Media for Small Business Webinar Series
Practical ways to use social media to grow your business
Online Webinars - Starting 28 May 2013
NEW webinar series: designed to dispel the myths about social media and arm small business owners with skills and know-how to make social media a powerful force for business development and bottom line results.
Experts will present practical ways to use social media to:
- Build brand awareness for your organisation
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- Convert social media followers to leads and leads to customers
- Grow you reach with suppliers, staff, resources, alliances, sponsors