More companies are blocking employees’ access to social networking sites. Should you jump on the bandwagon?
Experts say there’s there’s a better way to handle social media than banning it altogether.
A recent report looked at the way companies are responding to an increase in the use of those sites.
The good news: Executives appear to recognize both the risks and the rewards of using social media in the workplace. More than 80% said they perceive social networking as a potential corporate security risk, according to the recent report “Social Media: Embracing the Opportunities, Averting the Risks,” published by Russel Herder and Ethos Business Law.
The most common fears: The sites are bad for employee productivity (cited by 51% of respondents) and could lead to a damaged company reputation (49%).
However, most execs also believe social networking can help organizations by:
- enhancing relationships with customers and clients (81%)
- building the company’s brand (81%)
- helping recruit new employees (69%)
- providing new avenues for customer service (64%), and
- boosting employee morale (46%).
The bad news: Even while acknowledging the good and the bad that Facebook, Twitter and other sites have to offer, most companies are turning to two parallel extremes. On one hand, two-thirds of companies have no policy governing social media use. And on the other, 40% of employers use filters to completely block access to the sites.
The best solution is somewhere in between. Experts say a policy, rather than an outright ban or a complete free-for-all, is the way to go — as long as the policy contains all the right elements. For example:
- Include your company’s overall social media philosophy. What are you goals? What are you trying to avoid?
- Emphasize honesty and respect. For example, if a sales rep is using Twitter to promote a product, he should say he works for the company.
- Reinforce the company’s confidentiality policies. Most organizations already have policies on divulging proprietary information, but remind employees that applies to what they write online, too.
- Keep work and personal identities separate. For example, decide whether you want to prohibit employees from naming the company on their personal pages.
- Focus on job performance. Many companies worry that social networking is a productivity killer. But experts recommend tackling performance problems as they arise and focusing on results, not causes.
- Avoid conflicts of interest. Identity potential conflicts and how they should be addressed.
- Require a disclaimer when employees talk about work-related matters. For example, an employee’s blog could read, “The views expressed on this blog are mine and do not represent the views of my employer.”
- Decide to what extent you’ll monitor social networking use and tell employees what you’ll be watching.
- Apply the policy uniformly, not just to, say, the marketing department.
- Integrate the policy with your company’s other policies (anti-harassment, discrimination, ethics, code of conduct, etc.).