Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Social Media Corporate Policies

According to a recent survey by Manpower on social networking policies and businesses, only 20% of the businesses worldwide that responded have corporate social media policies in place.

Creating and implementing policies governing employees’ usage of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites is a topic in much discussion among business policy makers today. Social media usage affects employees and decisions makers in all areas of the company, from the C-suite to HR to Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, and IT. Consequently, all of those areas need to be involved in the development of the corporate social networking policy and how employees use social media when their communications are a reflection on the business.

Businesses frequently cite one or more of these reasons for hesitating to move forward with an employee usage policy for Facebook and other social media sites:

1.The Real Opportunity: while social media policy development affects the entire organization and therefore must involve the entire organization, many members of the management team are not familiar with or comfortable with social media as a business tool. Their resistance to see past the early stages of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as personal environments keeps them from fully understanding the ways these and other social media sites have transformed into broad communications channels for a wide variety of businesses and their stakeholders. In fact, some of the biggest, quantifiable successes in the social media channel are coming from B2B marketers.

2.Where to Begin: most companies don’t have a workable process in place to move through the steps required to develop a customized social media adoption plan for their organization. Adopting social media throughout the organization means that all employees need at least a basic understanding of social media sites: how they look, how they work, and the connections they are capable of forging. At the same time, these digital outposts need to be understood in the context of how they can enhance business communications. While the senior decision makers in the organization understand business protocols and communications, they often have little or no hands-on experience with them. Conversely, less seasoned team members are entirely comfortable with social media as personal communications environments but often lack the business experience required to think through the situations and scenarios required to develop workable policies and protocols. Without a knowledgeable guru to guide the enterprise-wide process, companies suffer months of spinning in place, false starts, and, in the worse case scenario, embarrassing public fumbles.

3.Uncertainty about what employers can ask employees to do/not do, on their own time: with employees responding to email around the clock and working with teams around the globe, the line between personal time and work time continue to blur. As companies provide mobile devices and other technology solutions to make working anywhere anytime easier for employees, the line between company use and personal use is almost non-existent. Many companies are torn between the need to protect themselves from inappropriate behavior by employees during business hours on business equipment and the desire to leverage the benefits that being active in social media environments are bringing to companies.

4.Fear of viruses, malware, and other system crippling intrusions is another obstacle that has many companies clamping down on access to social media sites through company systems.

5.Loss of Productivity: This is probably the biggest reason that 69% of companies in the Americas don’t have employee social media usage policies in place. While they often cite fear of system security as the issue (see #4), more often than not that is the mask management puts on its greater fear--that access to social media sites will make employees less productive. A lot less productive.

According to the Manpower survey, among companies that do have a social networking corporate policy guiding employee usage of social media, 63% report that it is instrumental in curbing productivity loss due to enabling employees to use social media while working. A quick Google search on “employee productivity social media” shows a mix of opinions—with five articles being clearly pro-usage, three being strongly anti-usage, and two being neutral.

As with most issues affecting morale, productivity, and leveraging new technologies, the answer isn’t for companies to put their heads in the sand but rather to full explore the risks and rewards as they pertain to their specific organizations.

DBE’s five-phase enterprise social media adoption process is helping our corporate clients explore the benefits of social media for their entire organization (HR, IT, marketing, sales, customer service, etc.), assess the risks to reputation, productivity and other factors, and to develop policies and protocols that guide their employees behaviors in the social media space when they are communicating on behalf of the company. It also helps them understand the ways their off-the-clock social media behaviors can affect their employers and themselves.

By leveraging a proven process for helping your company adopt social media best practices for your organization, you greatly reduce the risks and exponentially increase the opportunities social media communications present to all areas of your business, while being 100% in control of how your company moves forward.

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