Weigh risks and benefits of your employees’ social media usage

Whether social networking can indeed reduce or increase productivity, it all really boils down to each individual’s mindset and the overall work environment. There are benefits at the business level if someone, through his or her social network, manages to resolve a pressing issue much quicker than he or she would have done otherwise, just as there will be few others who spend a large chunk of time on the social networks planning their next holiday.

While there are going to be risks in terms of business and reputation when it comes to networks at work, prohibiting then totally is not a wise idea because the issue here is not social media in itself. It is ideal to treat it more as an ‘infrastructural layer’, which can facilitate meaningful social interaction. There is a real risk of bragging employees disclosing sensitive information inadvertently about company operations.  They may at times be inclined to talk about the great things that your brand is doing, something which they are not supposed to. In a way, concerns over the negative impact of social networking on people are exactly the same concerns that employers had previously with people using desk phones to talk to their friends.

However, one difference is that the online medium has vastly changed from a verbal chat to that on Facebook. In addition, the Web-based medium has immense power and reach, and hence a higher nuisance value. Any unwanted or undesirable information about your company put on Facebook or Twitter can suddenly go viral, as has been seen in many cases. So, an organization needs to weigh both risks as well as benefits that are associated with social media usage. In other words, there is a clear need to put in place explicit social media policies within an organization. For example, your employees should ideally avoid being logged at the same time in to their personal and professional Twitter accounts.

As far as selecting a social network for purpose of both internal and external communication is concerned, a company needs to evaluate all possible options. Instead of popularity, the basis for selection should ideally be relevance and convenience of usage apart from your target audience. There is no or little sense in having a MySpace or Facebook account if a large number of prospects are not checking into these sites. This is where an elaborate social media strategy comes into play. It should be based on thorough research or else your time and efforts will count for nothing and your brand will get out of touch.

Rather than sticking to the more popular social networks, consider those harboring your customers. Local networks, domain specific sites, review forums etc serve as the effective means of communication and interaction. Create a competent company profile on them and indulge in regular discussions about your products and services. This can allows you to generate brand loyalty and enhance your brand reputation. A focused social network for your employees, associates and customers so that they can socialize and discuss is a great idea.

Another way of bolstering your company’s online reputation is an official blog. You can customize your interaction and discussion with the customers and get valuable feedback with a blog. Variety of topics, accuracy of information and a reader friendly tone are the essential ingredients of a successful blog.