Social networking is here to stay. Because protecting your company’s brand is so critical to its success, developing a sound social networking policy for your organization is essential to guard your company’s reputation.
Do you wonder if your employees are logging in at work? More than 62 percent of Twitter users log in solely from work, according to Littler, an employment law firm in Phoenix. Facebook has more than 350 million users and more than 50 percent log in on any given day. MySpace has more than 263 million and YouTube viewers watched over 14.8 billion online videos in January 2009. And if you think only the younger generation is logging in, the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is 35 and older.
There are pros and cons to allowing workplace access. Here are a few pros.
- Employees can build a professional network that allows them to seek outside guidance for work issues.
- Employees can develop better communication skills if they polish before posting.
- Employees help build your organization’s brand, which will be critical to attract and retain top talent when hiring heats up.
- Employees may divulge information about your company that is adverse.
- Top talent, especially younger talent, may refuse to work for organizations that block social networks. To many, it is that important.
Here are some downsides.
- Your Information Technology (IT) people may squawk. Viruses are prevalent on social networking sites. Some get in over the most sophisticated firewalls. In addition, unsophisticated users may click dangerous links that appear to come from people they know. However, IT professionals are slowly acclimating to social networks, but overall, they have been resistant.
- Employees may seriously bash your company. For an example, visit www.jobrant.com.
- Employees may defame coworkers.
- Productivity may suffer if networking goes viral among your workers.
Many organizations now allow access at work. However, if they do, a social networking policy is critical to prevent misuse and to help document performance problems. In a June 2009 survey of 200 human resource professionals, almost 60 percent surveyed had no social networking policy in their organization. Yet one third of the respondents considered social networking a major drain on employee output. If so, why no policy?
It’s not that hard to develop a strong policy. Littler recommended several topics to include in your policy. Here they are.
First, your policy should include all Web 2.0 applications, including blogging, bulletin boards, chat rooms and the most popular networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Your policy should apply to use both off duty and on duty. In your policy, you should specifically either allow or disallow company resources for social networking.
Caution your employees not to disparage your company or use your company’s graphics or logo in their communications. Encourage good judgment and respect. Neither should employees mention customers or coworkers, or post photos of others in work-related activities without prior permission.
Let employees know that you may review employees’ social networking activities, even those posted anonymously or under a pseudonym.
Train managers in the policy and ensure they do not “friend” subordinates, either while at work of off duty. Your policy should notify employees they may reject “friend” overtures from supervisors without repercussions.