One of the most commonly discussed issues regarding social media and business is whether employees should be permitted to access social media platforms during the work day. The Internet is full of debate for and against employee use of social media. Critics state that employee use of social media at work will result in a waste of the organization’s valuable resources as well as potentially endanger the organization. Detractors state that employee use of social media can harm the organization as a result of thoughtless social media interactions that disclose trade secrets and other confidential information. Further, these opponents state that employees also create legal liability as a result of the potential for disparaging, harassing, and other comments that give rise to legal action by fellow employees and third parties.
Proponents of social media acknowledge that risks exist but that the potential benefits outweigh the risks so long as the risks are well managed. Supporters of employee use of social media point to social media’s ability to significantly increase brand awareness in an effective and economical manner. Also touted is the potential that social media has for increasing sales as a result of an effective social media marketing initiative that includes employees as brand ambassadors. Other benefits include increased goodwill for organizations that act in an honest and transparent manner as well as the benefit to the organization for developing a communal environment that listens to the outside world.
Employee use of social media is not right for all organizations. Some organizations may find it beneficial relative to business development, branding, and customer service. On the other hand, organizations may determine that the workforce has no business use for social media. Whether or not an organization embarks on a strategy that permits employee use of social media is dependent upon the organization’s mission, goals, and appetite for risk. To the extent that an organization decides to permit employee use of social media in the workplace, it must ensure that employee social media usage is managed properly.
Employee use of social media can be an extremely effective tool when properly used. Conversely, a poorly managed employee-based social media effort can create nothing but headaches for an organization. Regardless of an organization’s position regarding employee social media use, a formal, written social media policy is essential to protect the organization.