Banning Social Media Doesn’t Work, Education Does

What does your inhouse social media policy look like? Does it include banning employees from using sites like Twitter and Facebook during work hours? If so, you may want to rethink it. Because, well, it’s not working.

eMarketer reported on a new study from security solutions provider nCircle that found three-fifths of US security and IT professionals say their company has a social media policy and that 40 percent of those policies actually ban all usage of social media while on the job. This is comparable to last year’s report that 54 percent of CIOs ban social media in the workplace. However, even though employers may have legitimate (though, outdated) concerns for not wanting employees engaging in social media during work hours, nCircle’s Director of Security Operations Andrew Storms rightly calls strictly banning it a ‘knee-jerk reaction’.

From eMarketer:

Even though almost 40% of respondents ban employee social media use, this type of policy is a knee-jerk reaction to the serious security risks associated with social media and is not necessarily effective.

It’s not effective because, like it or not, social media is part of your employee’s lives the same way that texting and checking personal email is. Nearly twenty-four percent of Facebook users say they access the site “all the time” while at work, with 35 percent admitting to accessing it occasionally. That type of use isn’t going to die off simply because employers ban use. And if employees are going to be out there in social media during work hours, wouldn’t you prefer them use it responsibly? Perhaps to help promote and foster your brand?

And again, like it or not, social media is also part of your business. Just because you’re not engaging in it, doesn’t mean your brand isn’t being talked about. And just because you can (theoretically) keep employees off during “office hours”, doesn’t mean they can’t go home and get your brand in trouble from the safety of their home computers.

Instead of banning, educate.

Create social media policies that don’t prohibit its use, but instead show employees the proper way of engaging and what they are and are not permitted to put out there about the company. Oftentimes employees get themselves (and you) into trouble because they don’t realize they weren’t supposed to share something or they’re not aware of the dangers. By educating them on the proper use, you grow a team of brand evangelists instead of creating an environment where folks not thinking tweeting about how much they hate their job.

How do you go about educating?

  • Define what “social media” is and which sites fall under that classification.
  • Talk about what can and cannot be discussed – ie company secrets, company information, legal situations, offensive comments, libelous statements, meetings, personnel, etc.
  • Show them social media policies from other organizations. I recommend checking out this online database of social media policies.
  • Explain how social media can help the company and how they can be part of that – how to engage customers, how to share information, etc.
  • Offer social media training, if possible.

The important thing is to realize that social media isn’t going away and it’s not going to become less part of your employees’ lives. Banning it won’t work, but education employees on how to use social media responsible may.