Do you know that 54% of CIOs ban the use of social media in the workplace? “Wow” was our first reaction, too. A bunch of Web 2.0 marketers are of course prone to advocate the merits of using blogs and sites like Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, and YouTube in efforts to help businesses grow. But like with many things, social media can be a double-edged sword. A secretary will tweet about the laughable fashion sense of her boss. An employee will write an eloquent blog about how the routine Monday meetings are a total waste of time. And then another staffer will post status updates about how nothing here – certainly not promotion up the corporate ladder – is based on meritocracy.

Stop Social Media in the Workplace

Don’t think social media can be stopped, though. While this new digital sandpit is highly interactive and engaging, it can also be extremely hard to control. There are varying approaches taken by companies to either ban or limit it, but more than that, what we really need here is to implement new policies that educate, train, and guide employees on the proper, responsible use of social media at work.

Okay. So your policy depends on your work culture. It is important nonetheless to keep in mind several basic concepts that lay the foundation for a good social media policy.

Promote transparency

Social media catches liars, if only because anything you do online will leave one kind of trail or another. You can disclaim but you cannot hide. That’s why, in this environment, it is best to just be transparent at all times. What you put out there should be ultimately your responsibility.

Respect privacy and confidentiality

Social media in the workplace should be used in a way that engages people and builds the company’s relationships with others. It shouldn’t be the backyard where staffers wash the company’s dirty laundry. When making a social media policy, be clear on what information can and cannot be shared about the company and its business. Provide rights, define equitable treatment, and protect the interests of the company and its people.

Emphasize good judgment

Employees will be free to publish content in blogs, message boards, conversation pages, and social media sites outside their job functions, or after working hours – and nothing really stops them from posting information related to the job or the company. For work or for personal use, someone will usually have something to say about the company for which he/she works. With this freedom, however, should come the exercise of proper judgment: and no, of course not, an employee cannot post on behalf of the company while rushed, angry or after a few cocktails.

Give examples

Some workers just won’t understand the potential ‘dangers’ of social media until concrete examples are cited. So – along with the fairy tales – tell them the horror stories. Set clear consequences for non-compliance. Highlight best practices. Don’t just say that social media can add value to the business; rather, show them how it’s done. And show them how it’s not done.

New FTC regulations protect companies from staffers who violate recorded social media policies. So if you don’t have one yet, let us know. Our team of social media consultants here at Lakeshore Branding is ready to help you manage social media use in the workplace.