View Full Version : Social Media at Work: Where's the Line?

31st January 2011, 01:56 PM
Business owners constantly have to come to grips with developments in IT services, especially as it relates to maintaining security and up-to-date virus protection. But over the last few years with the increasing presence of social media sites and the almost fanatical usage of Facebook and Twitter, a new issue is emerging.

There is no doubting the popularity of these sites, and it seems that more and more emerge every week. In fact, Wikipedia lists over 160 current sites without including dating and specialist community sites.

Employers have to face the difficulty of managing employee access to these sites during work time, without impacting on morale and without ignoring the possible business benefits that can be derived in using social media sites.

On the downside, businesses are faced with the following issues:

Employees can be tempted to spend hours at a time updating their Facebook pages thereby reducing their normal productive output. Added to this is the complication that social media messaging can interrupt workflow constantly throughout the day making it nearly impossible for an employee to complete normal tasks on time.
Banning their use in the workplace has already been shown to be ineffective and in fact some surveys suggest that employees spend more time working out strategies to get around the bans!

On the positive side, some businesses actually use social media sites to promote their business.

It is easy to set up a business fan page on Facebook to promote your business and employees can be encouraged to refer clients to it so they can keep up with your latest product releases or special offers.
Staff who use social media sites during work time do so in a way that is equivalent to a casual chat. They are part of everyday life so employers may as well embrace them.

Social psychologists suggest that educating employees on the acceptable use of social media sites is the best way to go. Instead of introducing bans, employers would do better to educate employees about how they can incorporate their online chatting into daily work practice.

Staff are more likely to accept a 'managed use' policy which outline the do's and don'ts. Here are some simple education tips.

Provide details about what type of information is appropriate to share on social media sites so the company secrets and other commercially sensitive issues can be protected.
Demonstrate to staff that the company policy is in line with other organisations so they won't feel they are being singled out or restricted in any way.
Train staff in how to use these sites to further your company's image and how to engage customers in the most appropriate way.

By acknowledging the existence and relevance of social media sites, and then introducing policies to manage your staffs usage, you'll be well on the way to maintaining a harmonious workplace. Your IT services team can then continue with business as usual.