Social media use by employees is still considered a waste of company time by many businesses and large organisations with the majority choosing to block social media platforms on their servers or impose strict usage policies on their staff. But I think they've got social media all wrong, and here's why...
Improving customer service
I work a lot with the NHS and they are one of the many organisations that impose a ban on social media platforms from their servers meaning employees cannot access them from their work PC.
Whilst I'm all for productivity, I think they are missing a trick. To allow only the marketing team access means a huge strain on their time and the problem of who responds when there is no marketing team available.
Social media has opened up a whole new level of communication between us as businesses and organisations and our audience. This new generation of social media savvy customers are online and ready to tweet at the click of an iPhone button, no matter what time of day it is or where they are in the world. This means we can be called upon 24/7 to respond to a query, positive comment or a negative review.
By empowering (and training) more staff to use social media, we can have more 'men on the ground' to respond and dissipate any comments that would normally have to wait until the person responsible for social media is in the office.
By arming our army of social media warriors we can improve our response times preventing issues from escalating further. Our customer satisfaction and retention rates will improve as a result.
Educating our workforce
Social media provides us with a smorgasbord of opportunities to learn from others in our industry with many journalists and bloggers using social media to distribute their articles.
By following key accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn, we can find out the latest developments in our industry in just a few clicks. By keeping abreast of what is new in our line of work, we are improving ourselves and this personal development can benefit everyone in our company, not just the marketing team.
Sure you can get sucked in to reading article after article, but by giving staff a social media allowance of, say, 15 minutes a day, you are giving them the opportunity to explore new things but without giving them free reign to spend all day on it.
OK, OK, I can predict the responses I'm going to get from employers who have had to discipline staff for using social media excessively in work's time or for using it to vent their frustrations after a bad day in the office, and I can totally see where they are coming from.
The importance of a policy
Whilst I think staff should be allowed (and actively encouraged) to use social media, I'm all for the social media policy or guidelines to ensure that staff stay on track when they are using such platforms.
We need to make sure that staff know exactly what is expected of them, what is and what is not impossible and what action they need to take in the event of a social media crisis. This document should include such things as:
- the purpose of social media
- who is responsible for the overall running of the organisation's social media presence
- what can and can't be said on social media
- when issues need to be escalated to management
- how to communicate with the public (e.g. tone, professionalism, etc.)
- whether to include a disclaimer in a bio (e.g. 'Views are my own and not that of my employer')
- image and video usage
- data protection and client confidentiality
There's many others depending on the nature of your business, but you get the idea.
I believe that for employers to block social media shows a complete lack of trust for their employees and assumes all employees will abuse the system if they are given a chance to check their newsfeeds at work. There are many uses for social media, some of which can be extremely positive for a company and the development of its staff, so come on, lift the ban and let them tweet!