Posted February 4, 2010 2:32 pm by with 13 comments

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Does your company have a formal policy on employee social media usage during the work day (or after)? If not, you’re not alone: a report from employment services firm Manpower shows that only 29% of companies have a formal social media policy in place.

Obviously, far more companies block popular social media sites—another study in October showed that half of all companies block YouTube, Facebook and/or Twitter. But, as Mashable points out, those two stats aren’t mutually exclusive: there’s a difference between a written policy and simply avoiding the issue with blocking sites.

Most companies with a written policy (63%) say that it’s effective. But social media policies can cover much more than just work hours. They can also cover the company’s assets: in a written social media policy, you can establish guidelines for what employees can and can’t mention in social media (trade secrets and insider trading type stuff should be obvious, but isn’t always—and naturally, these rules can go too far, and could become the subject of unlawful termination lawsuits. Woot.).

I’m pro written policies: make it clear that your employees are not to spend work time watching YouTube videos, and enforce it. (Fire them, if that’s the policy.) However, this gets a little trickier when you’re using social media for business purposes, as more and more of us are—and even more tricky when you got on LinkedIn to send a message to get the contact info for a vendor and get sucked into the Q&A for two hours. (Apparently, most workers spend less than 30 minutes a day on social networking sites—which may be why most employers haven’t felt it necessary to come out with formal policies. Yet.)

What do you think? Should companies have formal social media usage policies for employees?

  • Darren O’Rourk

    I think without a doubt that companies should have some sort of written policy about social media usage during and after work. With so many uses for the various social media platforms, it would be a shame to hinder an employee from using these outlets. However, no one will be aware of any limits or boundaries unless something is in writing.

    Without rules, employees are living in a world of grey. And in this world, you will only be hurting your company and brand in the long run if you don’t make the rules set in stone.

  • Heidi Strom Moon

    Great post. I totally agree that companies should have a written set of social media guidelines, whether they’re a more liberal organization that encourages its use, or one that is more restrictive. It’s really part of a company’s overall corporate communications structure. In fact, I wrote about this topic for my agency’s blog last year:
    .-= Heidi Strom Moon´s last blog ..Is it Groundhog Day for Your Web Site? =-.

  • Drew Carls

    Certainly need to have a written policy. I’m working on our draft as we speak. Good timing!

  • Mark Aaron Murnahan

    It is pretty hard to discipline an employee for doing something that was not against the rules. If it is not written, it is not against the rules. Of course, you cannot cover everything. I doubt that many companies have a written policy about bringing your rooster to work, but when it comes to social media, the likelihood of incident is much greater.
    .-= Mark Aaron Murnahan´s last blog ..5 Common Reasons Blogs Fail =-.

  • Adi

    I must say it does sadden me that so much of this debate around social media policies revolves around the fear of social media being damaging. In all the debates I’ve read, not once did anyone mention the fear of NOT engaging on social media. Fear of inertia should be just as front and centre as the fear of using it and getting it wrong.

    It’s almost like banning telephones at work because people so often use telephones for social purposes. Companies should be engraining good practice in its employees rather than getting all dictatorial and assuming that they’re looking for any chance to loaf off.

  • Rob

    A full written policy does make sense, but with the social media environment being so dynamic, it might prove tough to keep on top of changes.

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  • karen snyder

    The social media policy should exist for the purpose of protecting employees from themselves. Why let an employee find out (too late) what they should not have posted on their personal blog or Twitter account? It also protects the company from liability, somewhat.
    .-= karen snyder´s last blog .."Do Social Media" = "Collect Underpants" =-.

  • Kyle Webs

    eh, that’s not a large number….but there’s a lot of businesses that think it’s not worth it, or that that it won’t help them. so I’m not too surprised.
    .-= Kyle Webs´s last blog ..PETA’s letter to Zac Brown Band =-.

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