Should I block employee access to social media?

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I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked by small business owners if they should block social media access to their staff.  My answer is always no.  Social media represents an enormous opportunity for small businesses to increase sales, better connect with customers and partners, and market themselves in a cost-efficient manner.  Besides, if you block social media platforms at your work, your staff will simply use their phones to access Facebook.

Below is a quick table of common misconceptions and the reality:

Misconception Reality
Employees will spend all day on Facebook and ignore their work. Employees when trusted will still deliver on their KPIs, and networking is a good thing for business.Besides, they will access social media by phone if you block it.
Confidential information will leak out; data security will be compromised. Email and idle conversations present a similar risk. The issue here isn’t the technology but appropriate policies for staff about confidentiality.
Social media can’t be used in heavily regulated industries like pharmaceuticals or finance. Whilst these organisations require additional processes, there are countless examples of how these platforms have been positively utilized by both pharmaceutical and finance organizations.
My employee base is not young and doesn’t use social media. There are 10.9 million people on Facebook in Australia, 4.2 million between the ages of 40 and 65. They do use social media.

So if there is no way stopping your staff using social media whilst at work, how do you ensure they are doing so responsibly and not placing you or your business in any potential harm? Below are five tips:

  1. Create a social media policy.  Every organisation with employees should have a social media policy, regardless if the organisation itself has its own social media presence. Employees need to be aware of appropriate behaviour in relation to your business on their own Facebook and other social media platforms.
  2. Focus on behaviours, not platforms.  Make the policy simple and behaviour orientated, not platform orientated. Platforms change quickly, behaviours don’t.
  3. Focus on dos, not don’ts.  Make your policies about dos, not don’ts (credit for this tip to Chris Gross).  This ensures the policy focuses on the right kind of behaviour rather than on the wrong behaviour.  It’s a small but valuable point.
  4. Create training for your staff.  HR procedures are often only read when joining a company.  Don’t assume your employees understand their responsibilities in social media just because there is a policy on it.  Review the policy with your staff on an annual basis, and make the training interactive and engaging.
  5. Think beyond a simple text document.  As mentioned above, boring staff policies are rarely read, let alone understood. Think about creative ways you can bring your policy to life. This example from The Department of Justice social media policy video is a particular favourite of mine.

Let me know if these are useful in the comment box. I would love to hear if you plan to use any of these with your staff or how you have approached social media use among staff.

Matthew Gain | Director, Brand and Digital Marketing – Edelman