For companies, resistance to social media is futile. Millions of people are creating content for the social web. Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it ought to be.
- BusinessWeek 2009
The million dollar question: Should employees be allowed on social media sites at work?
When it comes to this debate, there seems to be an even split of opinions on the subject according to discussions in the Harvard Business Review Group on LinkedIn. Speaking from my own personal experience, I have worked for companies who completely block social media sites from their servers and those who give free reign to their employees to access whatever they want online. I’ll let you in on a little secret: regardless of the stance on social media access of the company I worked for, my social media consumption still remained the same. Oh the joys of mobile phones!
Not to pop the bubble of any business owners out there, but if your employees want to access social media, they are going to do so—with or without your consent. So rather than asking the question: should employees be allowed on social media sites at work, we should instead be asking: how should employees be using social media sites at work? In other words, the issue shouldn’t be how to control access to social media, but rather about how employers can and should adapt to the changes that social media has presented in the workplace and learn how to manage these shifts through education, guidance and communication with their employees.
Social media statistics from last year (Digital Insights, 2013) demonstrate how important social media can be for raising awareness about your business and for allowing consumers to interact with and purchase your brand:
- Around 46% of web users turn to social media for making purchases
- 60% of consumers say the integration of social media makes them more likely to share products and services
- Social media generates almost double the marketing leads of trade show, telemarketing, daily mail, or PPC
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should allow your employees to spend their whole day on social media instead of doing their jobs. What I am suggesting is, if your employees are going to use social media anyways, why not harness their connections and reach to help your business grow? Encouraging, rather than restricting, access is important for helping employees feel like they’re more involved in the company’s efforts. They feel more engaged with the company and could even boost morale due to the fact that you are showing them that you trust them to use their time wisely.
Need help with developing a social media policy for your business? Check out this model template that can get you started!