Why Social Media in the Workplace is a Good Thing
It sounds odd at first, encouraging employees to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites at work. But social media in the workplace isn’t the taboo thing it once was. In fact, 90% of companies use social media for business purposes, according to a 2014 global survey. That’s right: 90%.
There are many benefits to using social media in the workplace. A few include improved communication within the company, promotion of the company brand, recruiting talent, and better customer service (which leads to increased customer loyalty). Of course, the benefits only come with proper management and communication with employees. But done right, using social media in the workplace can be a benefit to your company, your employees, and your customers. Here’s how.
Improved Communication Within the Company
Once upon a time, companies used newsletters to keep employees informed. Social media is the new newsletter. Private Facebook pages and events can keep employees up to date with current events and changes, as well as act as a sort of interactive “who’s who” page, putting faces to names for coworkers that work in different offices.
Beyond serving as a way to keep employees informed, social media can also be an avenue for creating a sense of community and affirmation among employees and business partners. That is, after all, what social media is intended for: bringing people together, even when they can’t physically be together. And happy employees are productive employees, says Alexander Kjerulf, author and speaker on the topic of happiness at work. “Employees who have positive workplace relationships are happier at work…and we know that people who are happy at work are more productive, more creative, and more successful overall.”
A report by David Maxfield, co-author of Crucial Conversations, and Mike Rognlien, learning and development manager at Facebook, backs Kjerulf’s claim. The report studied 2,698 people and found that for three in five workers, social media has resulted in better relationships at work; one in three have used social media to further work-related projects.
Since social media is prevalent, popular, and here to stay, it’s best to take CNN’s advice and embrace and utilize it, treating it as the new coffee break.
Promotion of the Company Brand
It used to be enough to have a good company website. But now, to reach the most people—and the right demographic—social media is also important. Twitter has 302 million monthly active users. Facebook has 1.44 billion monthly active users. That’s a big market, and it’s right at your fingertips.
If employees are tweeting and retweeting company news, posting photos of products on Instagram, and inviting people to “like” your Facebook page, they are essentially acting as social media marketers. But instead of having to pay them overtime, all you have to do is allow them to do what comes naturally to them: multitask, balancing work life with their virtual life.
As for your sales and marketing team, social media can be used to promote products and services instantly and widely. Once the promotion is out there, consumers are able to interact with it, communicate with one another about it, and share their ideas and experience with it. This creates a personal connection to your company and, with it, brand loyalty.
Another thing to consider: When employees are on social media—even their personal pages—they are able to keep tabs on competition and news stories in real time. This instant access to information gives people “an ESP-like sense of what other people are thinking,” says Clive Thompson in his book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better. That kind of insight can give your company the leg-up on competition and information that helps you better communicate with your customers.
Recruiting New Talent
Online professional networks are an incredibly rich area to find talent you might otherwise never know about or be able to reach. The largest, LinkedIn, has over 364 million registered members in over 200 countries. That’s instant worldwide access to potential job recruits: the best and the brightest, from new college graduates to established talent.
Beyond websites structured specifically for recruiting, other social media venues allow business partners, employees, and co-workers present and past to keep in touch and inform one another about potential hiring opportunities. The better connected your company is, the more possibilities there are for improving your hiring prospects.
One more thing to keep in mind is that prospective employees use the social media profiles of companies to make lists of places where they might want to work. By creating an attractive, up-to-date, interactive profile, your company can better attract top candidates.
Better Customer Service
Once you establish your social media presence, customers will expect to use it as a way to connect with you—think of it as the new “contact us” page, but instead of email and phone numbers, there are Twitter handles and Facebook messages.
The key to using social media as customer service is to be timely and effective. Only 36% of consumers that make customer service inquiries via social media reported having their issue solved quickly and effectively, according to NM Incite’s 2012 “State of Social Customer Service Report.”
You want to do better than that. Here’s why:
- Customers end up spending 20-40% more when companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media (as opposed to not responding)
- 71% of customers who get a quick and effective response are likely to recommend that brand to another
- 43% of customers say that a direct response to their questions is most important at a social media site
- 86% of social media customers would like or love to hear from a company regarding a complaint
Potential Problems—and How to Avoid Them
Allowing and encouraging social media in the workplace can be beneficial to a company, but it needs to come with guidelines or problems—like wasted time (see below)—will creep in.
A 2014 Salary.com survey
of 750 people revealed the following information about people wasting time at work on social media:
- 389% of people reported wasting time at work every day—up 20% from their 2013 survey compared to last year
- 31% waste roughly 30 minutes daily
- 31% waste roughly 1 hour daily
- 16% waste roughly 2 hours daily
- 6% waste roughly 3 hours daily
- 2% waste roughly 4 hours daily
- 2% waste 5 or more hours daily
The best way to combat this is by having a social media policy in your employee handbook. The policy should spell out exactly what is and is not allowed for social media use during the workday. Be sure to think about the following legal considerations:
- Understand your employees' rights to use social media under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The most important thing to keep in mind is that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) says that employees have the right to discuss work conditions on social media sites without retribution from their employers.
- Restrict behavior that is not protected under the NLRA. For example: employees should be forbidden from disclosing trade secrets, posting anything that contains offensive language, posting harassing or disparaging comments about other employees that could lead to discrimination claims (such as comments related to sex, race, disability or religion), etc.
- Be specific and include examples of the types of behavior that violate the policy.
- Include that all forms of communication on company-owned property may be monitored. Tell employees this in advance so there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Require employee signatures to acknowledge that you told them and that they understand the policy.
- State that you can modify the policy at any time. Social media is constantly changing, and you need to be able to modify it as needed. Notify employees when there has been an update and require them to familiarize themselves with the updated policy.
- Train employees on the policy. Make sure employees understand what the policy says and how it applies to their jobs. They also should understand the risks associated with social media as well as the benefits of appropriate use. Train them on tips for time-management strategies. Conduct re-trainings to update employees about policy modifications.
- Enforce the policy. Create, communicate, and incorporate disciplinary actions to apply to social media violations. Courts are likely to evaluate the policy's validity based on equal enforcement, so all activity should be treated equally. This may require collaboration among HR, IT, and legal departments.
There are many benefits born of using social media in the workplace. Improved communication within the company, promotion of the company brand, recruiting talent, better customer service, increased customer loyalty—it would be imprudent not to fully utilize the many mediums available online.
By educating your employees on proper social media etiquette and expectations, there’s no reason your company can’t thrive online. Use it right, and let social media be a benefit to your company, your employees, and your customers