The Social Media Debate – Embrace it or Ban it?

Image: The Social Media Debate – Embrace it or Ban it?

Should you Ban Social Media at Work?

Many organizations struggle with whether or not to allow social media access at work. However, in order to make this decision for your organization, it is important to know what social media really is.

When most people think of social media, they automatically jump to the notion of social networks, such as Facebook, however, it’s much broader than that.

In addition to social networks, social media includes media that is created to be shared freely (for example, Wikipedia) as well as user-created videos, audio, text and multimedia (such as YouTube, blogs, podcasts, etc.) Any media that is designed to be disseminated through social interaction using accessible publishing techniques can be considered social media. This includes, blogs, video sharing, wikis, picture sharing, life streams, live chats, deal sharing and much more.

Who’s Using Social Media?

Who is using social media? Everyone! Social media is part of the way in which we interact for f all four generations.

A Pew Research study from mid-2013 showed that 72% of adults use social media today. This is compared to 67% in late 2012 and only 8% in 2005.

Broken down by age, 82% of those are in the 18-29 range use social media. 77% of those between the ages of 30-49 and 52% of people between the ages of 50-64. 32% of people over 65 use social media.

The Business Benefits of Social Media

A Harvard Business Review  analytics survey discovered that 79% of organizations are using social media, with a number of business benefits, including:

  • Increased awareness of ther organization
  • Increased traffic to the company website
  • Ease of updating content, keeping it timely and interesting
  • Better targeting of marketing activities
  • Increased sales through e-commerce
  • Direct connection to clients, users and members
  • Ability to share  content with a large audience quickly

Social media is not a fad. It is part of a continuous movement towards interactive online communities and it’s here to stay. The faster an organization can embrace social media use from a marketing, sales and customer service perspective, the quicker they will be able to build stronger relationships with customers, vendors and stakeholders.

Ban it? Or Embrace it?

Many organizations ban social media at work because they feel that it is a “time waster.” Organizations also worry that employees will post inappropriate comments, images or videos on social media, which can have serious negative consequences to employees and the organization. These are perfectly valid reasons to be concerned about social media use at work.

However, there are a number of ways that organizations can use social media effectively.

People today use the Internet and social media in a number of ways, including on mobile phones. If employees want to use social media, they will find a way. Therefore, it’s important to work with employees to help them understand how to use social media effectively, rather than attempting a full out ban on access. In some organizations, employees are still ‘forbidden’ to access the internet fully and find it frustrating when trying to research competitive companies, connect with customers or access research to complete projects.    Banning access often doesn’t work well because employees find a way around the limitations, yet still feel frustrated with their organization’s stance.

For many organizations, social media is required for roles involving research, sales, customer service, marketing, recruiting and more. Embracing social media has wide implications across an entire organization.

Younger employees often seek to connect with colleagues and managers using social media. Banning access is costing you an opportunity to learn about what is important to employees and to  improving your interactions with internal and external colleagues.

Allowing social media access at work demonstrates trust to employees. Some employees believe that an organization banning social media demonstrates that the organization does not believe that employees can manager their time effectively. This can hurt employee retention and recruiting in the future. This is particularly true for Gen Xers and Gen Ys.

Understanding how to use social media effectively and how to do so without causing issues for employees or the organization is key.

In order to do so, and organization should:

  • Establish a written social media policy and provide expectations for conduct
  • Provide training on what is and is not appropriate use
  • Have an open dialogue around the effects of negative behaviour online
  • Communicate the policy and standards frequently with managers and employees

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that help clients target, motivate and engage employees in order to increase performance and productivity. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies across North America. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. With close to 20 years of experience in learning and development, she has devoted more than 13 years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance.

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