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Does Social Media Have a Place in the Workplace?

Lucy Griffiths

by Lucy Griffiths on 29th May 2009

The positives and negatives of social media within an office environment have been well documented. Whilst some companies are embracing it as the future (at least in a short-term capacity) of their online marketing strategy, others are chastising it for distracting workers and ruining reputations.

Whilst at polar opposites, both viewpoints can, in some cases, be equally valid. Never has it been so easy for disgruntled (ex) employees to spread vitriolic rage at their (former) employers. Whether deliberate or accidental, this type of corporate disrepute isn’t uncommon. Similarly, the large audience, which can be damaging, can also be a positive thing when it comes to bring in visitors to a website.

Clever campaigns utilising the full scope of today’s social media – Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter et al – have managed to propel companies and individuals to previously unattainable heights. The vast audience to which you are able to reach and the minimal costs involved have made this an extremely attractive proposition for many.

But if you’re planning to use social media for social marketing, should that courtesy also be afforded to employees? Well, the arguments against probably far outweigh the arguments for when it comes to social media being used in the workplace. With Facebook Addiction Disorder becoming a widely recognised ailment, clearly there are people out there who would, given half the chance, abuse the opportunity to use work facilities to satisfy their need to keep up with the social media soap opera.

Whilst they may not be communicating damaging messages that can be traced back to their work, clearly the distraction of having social media easily available could affect concentration and quality of output. This is why a number of companies have either blocked access to these sites or added wording into contracts that will dissuade them through the threat of disciplinary action.

The dozens of stories that have circulated throughout the media in recent years regarding employees getting sacked for their social media activities will undoubtedly make employers even more wary. Whether feigning illness and being caught out, being involved in illegal activities or criticising the company openly, the downfall of workers around the world has been widely publicised. Unfortunately though, there often isn’t a legal precedent to follow in such cases, leaving the company a tough decision on the action to take.

But whilst the negative side of social media in the workplace grabs the headlines, the positives are often sadly overlooked.  Marketers everywhere are desperately trying to improve visibility through whatever media is available. Unfortunately, as reported recently on B2B Marketing Online, some are coming unstuck due to the rules that are supposed to prevent employees abusing social media sites at work. The same report, entitled LinkedIn moving up the ranks with marketers, also shows the growing diversity of business networking as part of a social media campaign.

Whilst Facebook still leads the way in terms of popularity, LinkedIn is gaining fast. Designed almost expressly for businesses, this social marketing tool is a simple way to generate links to your site and get a name spread throughout a growing and active community. However and whatever way you choose to utilise social media as a marketing tool, always remember its power – both good and bad.

Even negative accusations can be spun on their head if you get out there and dispel malicious rumours. Being quick on the draw in reacting can minimise potential damage, whether from a poor review or an irate customer.

Undoubtedly having a strong social media presence can be hugely beneficial to any company or website. But clearly defined policies within the workplace need to be set out to avoid the potentially harmful repercussions. Businesses are finally starting to understand the power of this growing media and so are employees; however, a universal mandate as to what is and what isn’t acceptable usage still appears to be some way off.

Lucy Griffiths

Lucy Griffiths

Lucy is an Internet Search Specialist focusing and working with clients on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) strategies.

2 Comments

  • James Gurd 29th May 2009

    Thanks for the article, well written and balanced. It is interesting you pick out LinkedIn as the one creeping up the rankings, it is the social site that we’ve identified as having the most relevance to our business and are putting our thoughts together on how we can engage with and add value to the audience on LinkedIn.
    There is a real divide between those who love social and those who hate it. Very much the new marmite. I think there needs to be more reasoned discussion like yours that evaluates the pros & cons and then makes a rational commercial decision. There is no right answer to “is social relevant to my business” but ignoring it would be self-defeating.
    james, eCommerce Consultant @ e-inbusiness

    Reply to this comment

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