Your co-workers are doing it. Your managers are doing it, too. It’s likely you’ve even done it today. I’m talking about scrolling through social media in the workplace. More than half of businesses rate social media as a positive resource for increasing revenue and sales, but the attitude toward social media within the workplace varies between businesses.
“There is no doubt that companies are within their rights to expect compliance with some common-sense social media etiquette,” says S. Kumar, a Time Magazine contributor. “However, there is a vast difference between asking for employees to exercise good judgment and hovering over their Tweets like Big Brother.” Kumar pointed out that extreme monitoring of social media can destroy trust between companies and their workers and undermine loyalty.
Before we explore the advantages of allowing social media in the workplace, let’s establish the legal parameters for employers to use employees’ social media as a workforce training and resources tool.
The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to post limited information about their jobs or to engage in online discussions about work with their co-workers. Even concerted activity among co-workers that may be critical of employer practices can be protected according to the National Labor Relations Board.
Although the First Amendment ensures our right to free speech, this doesn’t protect your employees from losing their jobs over social media posts. “Even if employees are clearly acting in a concerted way, they won’t be protected if they cross the line from constructive behavior to malicious or reckless actions,” says Lisa Guerin, JD. “Employees who reveal company trade secrets or make threats of violent behavior, for example, won’t have any recourse if they are fired for these activities.”
The benefits of social media in the workplace are growing, but this innovation needs consistent, transparent policy on social media use. A 2016 survey showed that only a little over half of U.S. companies have a social media policy in place. “A social media policy is just as necessary for companies as discrimination, leave and vacation policies,” said legal expert Daniel Handman. And with 7 out of 10 workers using social media during their shift, the risk of litigation and/or breach can be averted with strong company policy.
The good news is that when used with leveraged discretion and influenced by proactive company policies, your employees’ social media habits can benefit your company. Here are some advantages of promoting social media use in the workplace.
1. Free Promotion Of Your Business
With small businesses spending an average of $75,000 per year, or 35 percent of the company’s marketing budget, on digital marketing campaigns, utilizing an audience that is already engaged can mean optimal advertising for a company. “Content shared by employees gets eight times more engagement, on average, than content shared by brand channels — and is re-shared 25 times more frequently,” says Shannon Gausepohl.
With a mindful strategy, employees can become your company’s biggest promoters. But this also means employers must be prudent in monitoring social media posts to prevent private information from being shared. “Managers should be cautioned about the pitfalls of becoming ‘friends’ with employees on social networking sites and instructed to use privacy controls to properly manage the flow of information,” says Christin Choi, business writer.
2. Improved Company Morale
It’s easy for monitoring social media to seem punitive to employees. But by encouraging social media use in the workplace, employers can trigger positive employee morale. Regardless of company policy, employees spend at least 1.5 hours every day trolling through social media.
Rather than spending valuable time and energy monitoring prohibited social media, why not consider opening up a company social media platform for making company announcements, training or gathering feedback? “The resources they utilize, the knowledge they share and the connections they make socially will support and complement the work they are delivering,” says creative marketing director, Amy Dagliano.
3. New Client Relationships
Following the lines of social selling, social media in the workplace is a solid foundation for building a bigger client base. “Your employees can strengthen professional relationships with people outside the company,” says Anthony Jeanetta. “Then, these relationships can lead to opportunities that would otherwise not have been available.” Think LinkedIn, which relies on social media connections.
Whether or not your company policy permits it, social media is already a major part of your company’s workplace. By designing a thoughtful social media policy, you can maximize the power of the social media platform for business growth without compromising company integrity and security.