Should Businesses Ban Or Encourage Workplace Social Media?

When a pair of Dominos employees posted a disgusting video of their kitchen activities in 2009, it became an instant hit on YouTube and a PR nightmare for the company. It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last, but it’s often used as an example of employee social media use gone awry.

It’s a question that businesses wrestle with regularly. Should they attempt to keep their employees off of social media at work, or should they encourage its use?

According to a recent study by Proskauer, 25% of businesses do not allow social media use at work and 26.7% only allow certain employees to access social sites. For many, it’s a case of productivity – they don’t want their employees checking their status updates or tweeting when they should be busy working. For others, it’s about brand protection. They feel that employees using social media at work could damage the company image.

There are two primary approaches:

Brand defence
Businesses that ban social media use at work often do so through strict employee guidelines and careful monitoring. Many have even invoked a “zero attachment” policy that prevents employees from posting anything about their employer. In those cases, they are not allowed to mention that they even work for the company anywhere through social media or risk termination.

It may seem Draconian to those who are able to use social media at work, but to many businesses it’s the only way they can feel safe.

Guidelines and Training
On the other end of the spectrum, many businesses not only allow social media use, they encourage it.

“Every employee is trained on social media use and agrees that their activities on or off the clock are monitored,” said Jeff Cryder, Marketing and Communications Director at Lebanon Ford. “Social media doesn’t sleep. You’re a representative of the company even when you’re out ‘on the town’ and you must act appropriately.”

Businesses who empower their employees to use social media often use a written social media policy and monitoring tools to keep people in line. It’s additional work and requires proper training, but it can improve employee morale and increase brand exposure.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet
There is no comprehensive answer to the initial question. Much of it depends on the personality and needs of the business itself. While a lot of grey area remains, companies should commit one way or the other. Leaving it hanging in limbo is what often leads to disasters.

For Dominos, they have been putting a lot of effort into not only improving their social media reputation, but to completely reinvent the company as a whole. The scar still remains, but they have improved dramatically both in buzz and procedures over the last 2 years.

The graphic below breaks down some important statistics and offers insight into how businesses today are allowing (or not allowing) employees to use social media at work. Click to enlarge.

Social Media in the Workplace

Infographic designed for Mindflash.