Need a Social Media Policy at Work?

So if a misguided tweet occurs in an office cubicle and a boss isn’t around to hear it, did a twit, in fact, tweet?

As with all new toys – the Internet, e-mail, instant messenger, text messaging – there comes a time in an employee’s life when said employee has to decide: will my company benefit from my use of this wonderful, shiny, new toy? Or will this cause me to miss that all-important deadline that will feed my next paycheck?

The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Deep, I know. But the smart and savvy employees are nodding their heads.

We know who we are. When we search the Internet, it’s for business leads. When we text or IM a coworker, it’s to save the time it takes to get up and walk down the hall. But then some goof-off has to go and get caught playing online poker during the 9 a.m. staff meeting and blow it for the rest of the team. Now – no more Internet.

Wait, huh? What about online purchase orders? E-mailing of client bills? Scheduling staff meetings with people who are never all in the same zip code at any given time?

Boss: “Welllll, that’s okay. But NOTHING else!”

Employee: “Okay, but what about …”

Boss to himself/herself:  Now I have a problem on my hands – where do I draw the line?

Clear Channel recently banned any online social networking on the job for its employees out of concern that it was impacting productivity.

I hate to see that happen – only because I’ve seen how effective social media networking and marketing can be in raising your company’s profile in a community of peers or consumers. Many national brands have already stumbled on to the power and strength of an effective online message strategy: Dell, Southwest Airlines, Zappos and General Motors are just a few we’ve blogged about in the past.

So what’s an employer to do? Nix everything, or begin the overwhelming task of splitting social media into two camps: “This one’s okay, that one’s not.” And what if there’s a newer social media tool that you don’t know about yet?

Believe it or not, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with this. Many large and small businesses have already waded in, creating their own social media policy. Some are quite in-depth, hello IBM, some are more to the point, Intel, while yet some are as simple as, “Don’t be stupid, stupid.”

We’d all like to think an employee could exercise good judgment and know instinctively where the line in the sand should be drawn, but then apparently nobody e-mailed/IM’d/texted that memo to the guy who posted pics of himself drinking while playing hooky from work.

Before we shut off the Internet, unplug the e-mail and throw out our cell phones – because let’s face it, any of these resources could be grossly misused – consider that with a little effort, an effective social media policy could help lead your employees down a more positive path that enhances your company’s productivity, reputation and brand. Just check out this recent case study on how Zappos employees are using Twitter.

We all want our employees to be advocates for our brand in person. An effective, internal social media policy could help turn them into online influencers as well.

If you’re unsure about what to include in a social media policy, e-mail us for a consultation.

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