Tenet #4: The Case for Social Media

by | Apr 13, 2017

Social media is a game changer. Applications like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp, Wikipedia, and WordPress (to name a few) have dramatically transformed life as we know it.

According to a 2016 article by SHRM Managing and Leveraging Workplace Use of Social Media, mania is afoot. Business applications in social media are becoming increasingly popular – almost on an exponential level – where digital tools in “recruiting, building employee engagement and communication, strategic real-time listening tools for business intelligence, and expanding learning opportunities among employees” are popping up in a variety of user interfaces. Employers are also using these applications as knowledge-sharing platforms, where teams at all levels can post or comment on “blogs, microblogs (similar to Twitter), expert directories and communities of practice.” Few can argue that the advent of social media tools has paved the way for improved collaboration and workflow.

Still, it is worth keeping in mind that every tool comes with a warning label. The use of social media applications is no exception. When it comes to this digital phenomenon, HR professionals should be prompted to frequently review corporate best practices on the subject. In fact SHRM, along with other professional organizations, encourages HR decision makers to address “employee use of their personal social media accounts while at the office, possibly affecting productivity, data security and network security. And, (to be aware that) friending and other contact among employees on social media can open the employer to possible legal issues. Even the social media use policies that employers write to help control use can pose legal issues if poorly written or administered. –

– HR, in many organizations, is taking the lead in developing, communicating and enforcing social media policies and on keeping tabs on the changing legal landscape of social media.”

To guide your best practices on social media, consider the following Pros and Cons as put forward by SHRM:

Possible Advantages

Why should an organization have its own official presence on social media? Reasons include the following:

  • Facilitates open communication, enhanced information discovery and delivery.
  • Allows employees to instantly discuss ideas, post news, ask questions and share links.
  • Provides an opportunity to widen business contacts.
  • Targets a wide audience, making it a useful and effective recruitment tool.
  • Improves business reputation and client base with minimal use of advertising.
  • Promotes diversity and inclusion.
  • Expands market research, implements marketing campaigns, delivers communications and directs interested people to specific websites.

Possible Disadvantages

Despite the business pluses of these sites and tools, they also create issues of security and legal liability for employers, and still relatively little case law exists for organizations to turn to when weighing the risks. Use of social media at work—by employees for personal use or by the employer as an official tool—can open up organizations to the following:

  • The possibility for hackers to commit fraud and launch spam and virus attacks.
  • The risk of people falling prey to online scams that seem genuine, resulting in data or identity theft or a compromise of the company’s computer security.
  • A potential outlet for negative comments from employees about the organization.
  • Legal consequences if employees use these sites to view or distribute objectionable, illicit or offensive material.

Bottom line? Social media will continue to grow at an extraordinary rate with the expectation that it will be an integral part of everyday digital work tools. Before setting policies, consider hosting a small employee-led community of practice. Tasked with researching best practices and social media apps, you will likely obtain better data (and more buy-in) than simply trying to draft the policy yourself.  Plus, you will receive the added value of perspective from multiple functions, generations and cultures.

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Victoria Tucker

Co-Founder / CEO, ZBglobal, Inc.

Victoria Tucker is the Chief Dreamer at ZBglobal, where she lends her 30+ years of experience on pivotal topics like workforce collaboration, engagement, mentoring and project management. She also plays ukulele…but not very well. Reach out to her!