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The Alternative Board Blog

Social Media is Important to Any Business: Do You Have a Policy?

Apr. 16, 2013 | Posted by The Alternative Board

All Things In Moderation and with Clear Expectation

How often have you showed up at one of your employee's desks only to see them immediately grab their mouse and click? As you suspected, chances are they were on Facebook, YouTube, or doing something on company time you'd rather they not be doing.

Your first reaction might be to shut down access to certain sites; there are plenty of filtering tools available to easily suppress access to specific websites. Yet this has the potential to backfire.

First, social media is important to any business. You want your employees to be aware and even be active on social media promoting your business. Second, younger employees in particular will expect to have social media access during the workday. Blocking this access will reduce satisfaction working for you.

Furthermore, how often have you seen a social media post from one of your employees that made you uncomfortable? For small businesses, the more folks in the organization promoting your business the better. However, this comes with some definite risk since the writing skills and promotional skills of your employees will vary considerably.

So what's a small business owner to do? My recommendation is to create a Social Media Policy (SMP). SMPs spell out the guidelines for employees using social media. This can broadly include three types of guidelines:

  • Guidelines regarding use of personal social media during work hours. (J.C. Penney employees were found to watch 5 million YouTube videos during one month last year.)
  • Which roles or individuals can and cannot participate on behalf of the company in social media.
  • Social media posting/content dos, don'ts and guidelines.

Social media policies are complex. Rather than come up with them yourself, and potentially be seen as "the bad guy," a best practice is to assemble a team of trusted employees to meet with you as advisors to craft an SMP which balances the interests of the business and the emerging importance of social media to employee satisfaction.

Want additional insight? Download Harness the Power of Social Media to learn more

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A few sample policies may include:

  • During company time, social media sites for personal use such as Facebook and Twitter are primarily to be used for business purposes.
  • Employees will be allowed to take short breaks of not more than 5 minutes not more than 3 times a day to review personal social media status and post updates.
  • Any social media broadcasts or updates made on behalf of the business must be consistent with our brand standards and represent the company in a positive and professional fashion.
  • When posting to social media, review any updates before posting. And use common sense!

Now, before you head off and write a SMP that bans or severely limits social media, a recent survey from Evolv, featured on Inc., has found that the most socially connected employees in your office may also be the most productive. In fact, it concludes that "employees who use up to four social media networks are exceptionally productive and they stay in their jobs longer, too." That’s a pretty amazing finding and contrary to the perception of most business owners that social media is counter-productive. Those folks in the middle are very productive workers. As the Inc. writer concludes, "everything in moderation".

Here is an example of an SMP that you can use as a starting point and customize for your business. Make it a standard practice that all new employees sign off on it, and have existing employees review and endorse as well. Most employees want to do the right thing but in many cases their employers have not spelled out the expectations.

Are you ahead of the curve and already have a SMP in place? What tips can you provide for drawing one up or implementing and enforcing it?

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board

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Written by The Alternative Board

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