Social media touches nearly every part of our lives these days. This is especially true in the workplace where a large percentage of workers rely on computers and the Web to complete their daily tasks. There seems to be an even split between employers who embrace social media and those who seek to clamp down on it and ban it completely. However, it is possible to have the best of both worlds, one where companies can have guidelines in place while your employees have freedom to express themselves.
However, the question remains: Should employees be empowered with the new tools available to them, or should employers shut down all social media services and have people focusing on the core business forward? Because social media is integrated into all areas of life, businesses will have to approach this subject sooner or later.
1) Internal Social Media Tools
2) Social Improving Businesses
3) Tools For Curbing Social Media
4) Creating A Social Media Policy For Your Company
5) Social Media Brand Talks
6) Tips & Guides
Internal Social Media Tools
Although most employers see social media as something that could disrupt their businesses, there are a lot of new tools and services that can actually improve productivity in the workplace and which are socially driven. These tools essentially improve internal communication and try to take everything that is good about social and use it to empower your business.
One of the biggest sales tools in the world, Salesforce has been betting its entire business on social by integrating it into its platform from the ground up. These tools help employees to communicate internally as well as tracking data from customers and feeding that back into the platform in a highly social way. Just have a look at this video case study that they filmed with Rossignol to understand what that looks like:
This tool which was recently acquired by Microsoft is essentially a private Facebook that is only used by employees and is aimed at improving internal communication and access to information. You can share updates, photos, polls as well as sharing files with each other. Only people with a company email address can join your network and it is a great way of making sure everybody is on the same page within the company.
Developed by 37Signals, Basecamp allows companies to collaborate their work by offering to-do lists, milestone management, file-sharing, project templates time tracking and a messaging system. If you're managing numerous projects over different departments, it's a great way to tie things up.
If you're looking for something a little more low-key (not to mention cheaper), Google Docs is a great way of collaborating projects. The real-time editing features ensures that all users will see updates as they happen, making it handy for small, collaborative projects.
Social Improving Businesses
While most employers see social media as a time waster at the very best, there are some smart organisations who have used it to improve their services. Here are five examples of forward thinking companies who put social at their core, and improved their bottom line considerably.
The shoe company is a massive social media advocate and is a shining example of how to be open and transparent. It did this through Zappos Insights which gives a look into how the company works and what it does. It's also makes sure that its accounts are fun and helpful, its Facebook account cover photo being a good example of the former.
A brand that has integrated social into everything it does, Starbucks has a significant presence on Facebook and Twitter, but has adapted newer services like Instagram. According to research from PhaseOne, it's the most socially engaged company online and it does this through interaction, varied content and feedback.
If you heard about Felix Baumgartner skydive yesterday, then you should know why Red Bull is brilliant at social media. To use the example given, Red Bull streamed the entire event live on YouTube, which meant that any website could embed the event and it could be viewed on any mobile device, ultimately meaning more views. Overall, more than eight million people watched the event, and while the event in itself was significant in its own right, the brand's understanding of social media meant it was broadcast to the widest possible audience.
A forward-thinking brand, Ford Motors usually uses its different accounts for customer service. It places so much importance on it, The company is so dedicated to social, it has eight, dedicated customer service agents dedicated to finding concerns, questions or comments on Twitter, Facebook, auto forums and message boards. It was also one of the first brands to embrace Google+ through use of hangouts.
As one of the most visible brands globally, it's no surprise that the fast food chain goes to great lengths when using social media. With viral videos, numerous campaigns and crowdsourcing. One example of the brand increasing engagement was its site "Our Food. Your Questions" which let Canadian customers ask anything about its food, which it would then answer.
Tools For Curbing Social Media
Considering that you can lose a waste so much time on social media, there are a number of tools and services that can be used to curb or stop this habit. They're not foolproof, but they should help improve productivity. Here are a few examples.
For both Mac and PC, Freedom is a simple app that locks you away from the Internet for up to eight hours at a time. What makes it effective is that the only way you can get back online is either complete the time or to reboot your computer, the latter being more hassle than it's worth. This app is only available for PC users.
The Mac version of Freedom, it lets you block websites as well as incoming and/or outgoing mail services for a certain period of time. Once started, you must wait for the timer to run out, you can restart, or delete the app to stop it.
A Chrome extension, StayFocused is different as instead of blocking you from different websites, it limits the amount of time you spend on time-wasting sites. So you can give yourself 30 minutes a day to enjoy your time on Twitter or browse through your Facebook news feed.
FocusBooster challenges users to focus on a single task for 25 minutes and then give you a five minute break. Encouraging you to have short bursts of productivity, it ensures that you concentrate on the task at hand without getting distracted.
If someone claims that they don't spend that much time online, this could be the wake up call they need. TrackTime monitors your activity for eight different browsers, your iTunes history and other activities. Not only will you see just how much time you dedicate to different activities, but you'll see all your time presented in graphic format. However, the app is for Mac only and costs $24.95.
However, bear in mind...
Whether you like it or not, most people have smartphones now. While you may be able to lock down all the personal computers on your network at work, you are never going to be able to control what employees do on them. Over 500 million people (and rising) access Facebook through their phone so you have an idea of where things are heading. If it's a case that they're being used in ways to help you with your job, that's fine, but if it's used for Facebook status and playing games, then that's another story.
While you can't jam or block phone services as that's illegal, what you could do (if it's a problem that you just can't avoid) is connect up each computer to the web, but don't give away the password. That means they'll have to use 3G to connect which would (hopefully) discourage them from using their smartphone as often. However, apart from that, you need to give clear guidelines as to what's acceptable use of a smartphone at work and what isn't.
Creating A Social Media Policy For Your Company
While all of the above tools are great ways of clamping down on how your employees access social media, we're of the opinion that they're probably going to use it anyway, especially with the emergence of smartphones.
There is very little you can do to clamp down on people using it on their phones or in their personal time so if you're a large organisation, you might want to consider a full social media policy. Rather than trying to come up with a lofty 50 page document, why not come up with a one-page summary that gives your staff the high-level view of what they should be doing when online. Some of the things we would advise you to include in that document are.
Apply Common Sense
The best rule anyone can apply. While you don't want to restrict your employees' social media activity, you have to make them aware of the consequences of a very stupid tweet or post. A good rule is that the way you behave online is the same way you would behave in public.
State That They're Company Ambassadors
While you might have someone to help representing the company online, all of your employees are, by extension, representatives too. Make them aware that their profiles can be seen by current and potential customers and clients and that they must take ownership of what they post. Also, ensure that they are mindful of who they're posting to and who can see their status update.
Productivity Is Important
While you're saying it's fine for your employees to be on social media, it's essential that it doesn't get in the way of productivity. Let them know that as long as social media doesn't affect their overall productivity, it's fine to use it. If they're playing games and always on their Facebook page, then there's a problem.
Understand The Law
Laws like copyright, privacy, slander and libel are just some of the issues that you need to be aware of, and an employee saying they didn't know is of no use if you're facing a complaint, or lawsuit. Educate your employees about what you can and can't do so that there's no confusion.
Cover All Areas
A social media policy isn't limited to just Facebook and Twitter. Blogs, apps video sites like YouTube are also included so state that your policy applies to these as well.
Encourage Transparency & Honesty
You don't want anyone to be accused of dishonesty so encourage your employees to place their company in their bio so there's no confusion. If it's a case that they're promoting or highlighting work done from the company, get them to place a disclaimer saying that it's for their company. Transparency means honesty and customers and clients will respond better to you if you're consistent.
Always Use Your Real Identity
Following the transparency and real world rule, don't create fake accounts as the anonymity could be abused. This is for two reasons: If you're using one to promote or hype your company, people will see through it very quickly. Secondly, and perhaps even worse, if you use it to denounce or criticise another rival company, it can come back to bite you when someone finally discovers the person behind it.
Don't Reveal Company Secrets
While you should encourage your employees to be honest and open, you don't want them to start revealing specific details about how the company works or how it has an advantage over other similar businesses. Remember that with social media, news travels fast so make sure they know just how fast things can spread.
Provide Value To Followers
Nobody follows a personal account because they offer company updates. Instead, they follow because you're interesting and/or you offer value. Don't spam followers with company updates as that will put them off, instead mix it up with your own observations, links to other interesting and useful content and chat to people. You'll get a much better response if you approach things that way.
Social Media Is A Digital Record
Whether you like it or not, anything you post onto Facebook, Twitter or any other site is basically recorded for everyone to see. When somebody is researching a company or employee, they will have immediate access to your public information which will include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Again, if you're unsure about posting something, don't! It might come back to haunt you.
Social Media Brand Talks
Many of the world's biggest brands have directors or heads of social media, and many of them have shared their experiences. Here they talk about their brand's social media presence, interacting with users and the challenges they face. Here are a few choice examples:
Matthew Guiste - Director of Global Social Media At Starbucks
Scott Monty - Head of Social Media at Ford
Adam Brown - Director of Social Media at Coca-Cola
Rick Wion - Head of Social Media at McDonald's
(Not a talk but a good overview of the brand's social media strategy).
Conan O'Brien - Team Coco
Esteban Contreras - Social Media Manager For Samsung USA
Tips & Guides
If you're looking for further information, here are extra resources that will help the process:
- Mashable provides ten things you need to include when writing up a social media policy.
- As does Inc., which provides its own list of what you need to consider.
- Social Media Examiner provides 10 ways to put together a social media policy and why it's vital for your company.
- Hubspot provides five examples of good social media policies, worth reading if you need an example or two.
- NTen provides some handy advice for writing your first social media policy, keeping it both short and sweet.
- Social Business News tells you what you need to do when you've finally put together a social media policy.
- Sustainable Business Forum provides its own tips for putting one together.
- CSO Data Protection gives four tips for creating an effective social media security policy.
- Another one from Inc., this time showing you how to avoid a social media lawsuit.