Recently, a few members of the KreativElement team hosted a lunch and learn for one of our B2B clients.
We spent some time giving a basic overview of social media best practices and opened up the room for questions. One of the questions surprised me.
Or maybe I should say that the answer to one of the questions surprised me. After asking about ways to make the most out of his LinkedIn profile, a marketer at the company mentioned in passing that employees were allowed to access LinkedIn at work, but they still weren’t allowed to access other social profiles on company time.
I made no audible note of the comment at the time, but remember thinking to myself: “There are places where employees aren’t allowed to use social media at work?”
I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
In my brief research on the subject it seems that most of the companies that still ban social media usage at work are larger, more corporate companies. (That also explains why I’d never even considered this as a possibility—I’ve spent my entire working career in a small business environment.) Reasons for banning it range from lost productivity to compliance risk to flat-out distrust of social media or employees.
Those may be legitimate reasons in some cases, but I have to wonder: are companies missing the boat by not allowing social media usage at work, much less right here in 2016?
My argument for social media usage at work can basically be reduced down to three reasons. For one, even if blocked over the company network, employees can still access social media on their own phones through their cell network. In this case, banning social media is merely a roadblock for employees—who can circumvent the rules by using their cell phones—and may even build a culture of secrecy around internet browsing at work.
Two—and now you’ll hear my startup/small business background coming through—can employees not be trusted to be adults? Though there may be employees who feel the urge to spend hours on social media each day, I’d argue that that isn’t a social media issue and is rather an employee or management issue. Given meaningful work and the tools to succeed, I don’t think that good employees will resort to browsing Facebook all day.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, companies that ban social media usage at work are also stifling their best advocates: employees. Employees are (or should be) a key voice in your company’s online presence. If you want them to advocate on social media on your company’s behalf, it’s unrealistic to expect them to do it in their free time after work. Sharing a post, commenting, or forwarding on a blog to a prospect only takes a few minutes, but is made difficult if not impossible when social media usage is banned at work.
All of that said, I understand that not every business works like a startup. Certain industries—banking, accounting, law, and healthcare—necessitate more stringent standards about not just social media usage, but also internet usage in general at work. For nearly ever other business, though, I worry that banning social media usage at work is missing the point.
What do you think: should you let your employees access social media at work, or should they be banned from using it on company time? Have you made a decision one way or another and seen direct consequences? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Image credit: CC by Rafael Hernandez