(originally sept 14 2010) The idea of adopting social media in the workplace is clearly not a new one.
But even with the considerable attention it has received in recent years, the decision still seems questionable and unnerving to many business owners. Karie Willyerd and Jeanne C. Meister understand exactly why this change cannot be taken lightly. It’s a change that requires not a mere set of new tools for employees, but an entirely new mindset for both employers and employees encompassing a company’s attitudes, social environment, and commercial dynamics.
For this reason, business owners considering implementing social media and social networking into the workplace should take several things into account. It’s important to first clarify the difference between personal and work-related use of social media in the workplace. While some companies allow employees to log onto their personal Facebook or MySpace accounts during work hours, for the sake of productivity, personal use of social media should be limited to lunchtime or breaks, if allowed at all. In agreement with attorney Alan Rupe’s statement, the personal use of social media in the workplace “destroys employee productivity.” Employees are at work to be efficient and produce results. Simple as that. Engaging in personal/social online matters only provides unnecessary distractions that are usually irrelevant to work matters. Thus, the topic of interest here is the consideration of social media being integrated into the workplace and used only for work-related purposes.
The question then becomes, why allow the use social media in the workplace? When done with precision, its implementation is a change for the better for both company and staff. While reasons for considering this shift towards a virtual-friendly work environment abound, two in particular help understand the crucial need for change. One reason, in one phrase, is Generation Y. This cohort is what Rob Buckley calls the “digital natives – today’s younger generations who speak natively the language of computers, mobiles, video games and the Internet.” Generation Y are the leading force behind the massive move to a virtual-friendly workplace. They think and speak in digital form and cling to it with more desire than a two-year-old who clings to his teddy snuggle blanket. Many college students today admit to feeling more productive with homework after a short break involving checking their Facebook wall and friends’ updates. The point here is not that the workplace should allow social media for personal use, but that using it is almost a must for a generation that lives and breathes on it. Given this point, social media use doesn’t necessarily lower productivity as long as it is used purposefully to achieve work-related goals. The resulting combination? A tool with endless possibilities and a generation of self-taught social media experts who can maximize those possibilities.
As influencers, Generation Y is changing our patterns of communication and work habits. If one wishes to keep up with the fastest generation, they must adapt. Doing just this in the workplace involves… you guessed it: jumping into the social media wagon.
A second reason for such implementation is quite plain and simple: it brings new business. Social media networks are one of the newest, most influential ways to promote a company, brand or product. As Brian Solis states in Engage!, social media provide opportunity for acquiring followers, advertising, creating and cultivating a purpose-driven community, developing business incentives, and the list goes on. The world of marketing and advertising extends to the virtual world like never before. When carefully planned, it can garner trust, respect and dedication from current and potential customers through channels preferred by the current generation.
In order to obtain social media’s full benefits, it is crucial that the company have the skills to implement and enforce its use. Implementing social media isn’t as simple as telling employees to post or Tweet on why their company is a great workplace or what kind of great products it sells. It’s not about sending random messages to the audience. It’s about having a concept that kicks butt and combining it with traditional marketing strategies to take it to a new, more comprehensive level. Such a concept should be strong enough that it reflects through whatever kinds of social platforms are used, whether they be social networks, activity feeds, microblogs, microcommunities or forums. This kind of planning involves a bright team that is entirely focused on and dedicated to success. It takes people who embrace this virtual culture and know how to use it to its full benefit.
We all know, however, the sometimes accidental but disastrous effects that giving full power to an employee can have for the employee, employee, and company’s reputation. Therefore, creating and establishing policies and procedures for social media use in the workplace becomes vital to its success. This usually is included in the form of a social media policy. As attorney Alan Rupe stated, an employer’s social media policy is worthless if it cannot be implemented and properly enforced. Three general steps make up the process of creating such a policy. The first step is to define the scope of the policy. This takes into consideration the needs and expectations of the employees and the company as a whole. The second step is developing the policy. The key to succeeding in step two is to use clear and concise words that indicate what is allowed and what is prohibited. It also should explain in detail what communication media are covered and how they can be used. As Chris Boudreaux demonstrates in his analysis on social media policy, few organizations actually provide guidance to employees regarding specific social utilities. The more resources the employees have, the more opportunity for them to properly use social media. The third and most important step is implementing and enforcing the policy. Employees can be provided with a 10,000-word detailed policy, but if they are not compelled to follow it, it becomes of little use. With the right implementation and enforcement, employers can be sure that employees will make the most of their “über-connected workplace” and successfully (and legally) embrace this new culture.