Managing Workplace Use of Social Media

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As more and more people use social media, employers are beginning to realize that this technology has literally changed the way people think, behave, and communicate. That can be a good thing and a bad thing, depending on how it is used. 

On the plus side, social media has many potential advantages for a company. It can allow you to reach more potential customers through advertising. It can improve your brand recognition, and it can contribute to greater customer engagement. 

However, there are some major downsides that you need to be aware of. Otherwise, you may run into some very unpleasant and unintended consequences when employees bring their social media lives to work—or vice versa. 

What are some of the risks you need to be aware of? Consider three examples. 

1. Wasting too much time 
This is probably one of the biggest concerns of many managers and HR professionals. The thing about social media is that it can be a huge time waster, even if those who use it intend to do so only sparingly. 

If your company allows employees to make use of social media while at work, try to find ways to limit the amount of time spent on it. You might even require that your employees use one of the many apps available to block social media use after a certain amount of time. 

2. Revealing company secrets 
Because the point of social media is to share information, all too often employees may reveal sensitive information without even intending to. For example, a selfie taken at work and posted online may inadvertently show confidential materials in the background. Likewise, seemingly innocent comments about current projects may reveal more than your company is comfortable with. 

Of course, this is a potential danger with any communication that an employee participates in. However, it is especially dangerous with online communication. Why? Because once something is posted online, it exists forever. Even if the original post is deleted, it can often be retrieved by unscrupulous individuals. 

How can you avoid this trap? It is crucial to educate your employees on proper social media use when it comes to business information. Try to ingrain in them the "lead story" rule: Never post anything on social media that you wouldn't want to see as the lead story on a local news channel. 

3. Posting content that reflects poorly on the employee's reputation 
This can be a major problem, one that ensnares both older and younger employees alike. All it takes is one picture, one "joke", or one insensitive comment to ruin a person's reputation. The problem gets compounded when such inappropriate material is linked to the person's job. Even something an employee posts on a private social network can reflect poorly on his or her company. 

As with the "lead story" rule listed above, the key is to train employees to double-think before posting. Perhaps they can ask themselves whether they would be comfortable showing this to their grandmother. A safe rule of thumb is this: When it doubt, do without (posting it). 

Conclusion 

Social media is here to stay. Realistically, you probably can't eliminate all potential problems it may cause. However, if you take steps to have a good social media policy for your business, you can do much to mitigate the potential issues without infringing on the rights of your employees. 

As with many other HR tasks, it's all about finding the right balance. With a little forethought and planning, you can avoid common issues and find a win-win solution.

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