5 Tips on How to Handle Social Media in the Workplace

The lines of communication are blurred. Somewhere between the Internet and our real lives, social media has taken hold, creating new habits and expectations that, as usual, push the technology to its limits. This generation from baby-boomers down to Y2K babies are all subject to this massive shift in how they receive and send information and by extension, themselves, out into the ether.

Old school thinking is to ban access to social media in the workplace. I feel the twinge myself, now 40, as a younger worker pulls out their glowing mobile and thumbs out a quick message, working much faster at that than at the task at hand. Focus is split and more importantly, focus is split between their here and now and their virtual here and now. How can this be good?

The Internet’s influence is so powerful that it is incredibly hard to block, monitoring and focusing on its strengths is more beneficial. Larger corporations try to block or monitor internet usage through IT protocols and putting some fear of termination in their employees if caught texting or using Facebook on company time. Desktop computers are becoming a smaller part of the social media equation as mobile technology advances and makes communication that much easier.

Mobile phones greatly increase the ability for workers to socialize online and are more accessible than a desktop computer 24/7, so the habits are more readily created. The Web is now truly unleashed, ironically becoming more powerful while being sized down to a postcard version of its original monitor size, Web designers scrambling to add mobile friendly code, mobile landing pages or even build apps to appease this emerging power.

So, as a business owner, the power of social media combined with mobile technology may seem daunting. However, social networking can be a boon for businesses, when approached in the proper manner and with focus. It is another tool that developers, sales and marketing teams can use to reach their audience.

Here are five tips on the benefit of, and how to use, social media in the workplace:

  1. Potential clients communicate using social media and will expect businesses to make themselves available to them when they need them. Find the appropriate channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook business page and official business Twitter accounts and get set up in social bookmarking sites like Delicious. Keep true to your marketing and branding guidelines across all accounts and customize the look of your pages to best convey your logo and image.
  2. Teach your staff about privacy issues and social media etiquette. When you teach others, you will learn from their questions and responses too. If you don’t know the ins and outs of these social media channels, hire someone who does to set up your office computers properly and also provide a training session to your staff so they are clear of your expectations.
  3. The issue of employees who text their friends or updating their Facebook status while performing their duties would best be determined based on their job description, safety concerns and focus needed to accomplish their tasks in a timely manner. Does it really affect their performance or does it keep them happier through their work day? In any case, it would be fair to all staff that the same rules apply across the board.
  4. Funnel the staff’s social media activities so they benefit the company while still allowing the staff time to be part of the social environment. A company’s brand now extends to their presence online and is represented by the news feeds and tweets of its employees. As long as employees are respectful of their company’s policies, their online activities can benefit the company. Have a staff member actively search out online reviews of your company’s services or products and have them post responses to both positive and negative reviews.
  5. Find the worst case of social media addiction in your office. You can either make an example out of them and reprimand them, or offer them the opportunity to become the liaison for the company’s social media presence, where they are expected to put their talents and passion to use.

Your company can benefit from your staff’s awareness and involvement online by:

  • Increasing awareness and brand
  • Increasing your customer base
  • Getting direct referrals
  • Receiving feedback for marketing data
  • Blending social media with business needs

As a business owner or employee, you must decide how important social media is to your work environment. Is it best (or even possible) to enforce a hard line with yourself and other staff members and ban the use of personal mobiles and/or personal use of company desktops and laptops? Or is it more realistic and forthcoming to find a productive channel for social media in the workplace? Social media brings people together and helps share ideas, events and can help your business expand its presence in people’s everyday lives. Just make sure you set down realistic guidelines and have clear communication at all levels of the company to guarantee a productive and happy workplace.

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