E-Marketing in Minneapolis David Vinge, eMarketing Dashboard: Should Employee Access to Social Networks Be Blocked?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Should Employee Access to Social Networks Be Blocked?

Is it a waste of time for your staff to spend two to three hours on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks or does it increase customer engagement? Some large companies have decided against social media access. In this article CorMetrics attempts to provide "5 reasons NOT to seal your social media borders."

They outline five critical questions that must be answered before blocking employee access to social networks.  While I disagree with some of their arguments and logic, I do agree with their conclusion.


1. Which Social Media channels does your company use?

They have identified four different types of social media channels or networks, including those that
a) foster collaborative work and knowledge sharing (e.g., corporate blogs and/or wikis),

b) facilitate professional networking and information exchange (e.g., LinkedIn, Xing or Viadeo),

c) provide methods of quick information distribution (e.g., Twitter, Naijapulse, Identi.ca, instant messaging), and

d) help us stay connected with friends and family (e.g., Facebook, Hi5).
Some companies may encourage use of internal blogs and wikis but discourage employee contributions to external blogs and wikis.

The article points out the obvious that if your "company is very active on Facebook, it is counter-productive to block employee access to it." The same would go for Twitter, YouTube, etc.

2. They suggest that laws and regulations may have a role in the decisions.

But most companies make it clear to employees that work computers can only be used for work. They reserve the right to restrict access. CorMetrics does point out that "most courts follow the principle that if something has been quietly tolerated over a period of time, it is permitted. In fact, rules that are not consistently and fairly enforced cannot be used to justify later sanctions against staff."

This reinforces the need for a formal Social Media Policy along with standard enforcement practices.

3. Could resistance be futile?

While companies can prevent workers from accessing social media sites using company equipment and Internet connections they can't restrict what employees do on their own time using mobile phones. For that matter an employee can take their personal computer to a WiFi hot spot and tweet all they want. What's the issue here? This does not affect worker productivity.

The article suggests that employees might need to use Twitter to notify a client that they will be late for a meeting. Does this justify leaving open Twitter access when there are still traditional ways of communicating with clients?

4. Could greater collaboration increase know-how?

They say "Maybe we agree that resisting the increasing pervasiveness of social media in people’s lives is futile." Really, is it? 

They are right when they say, "Of course, the Internet can facilitate collaborative work efforts. For instance, with the help of internal networks, companies have used blogs and wikis to better share information and know-how among staff in different divisions and countries. Even participating in wikis run by an association or professional society (e.g., IEEE, ACM, APA) may help foster learning and staying up-to-date with the latest developments within a profession or industry."

"But we disagree that the Internet has enhanced and improved reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge for the average Joe, as claimed by experts participating in a recent Pew study."

5. What factors may influence social media usage?

Ok, let's skip to their conclusion: "Instead of pervasive limitation or outright blockage of access, following the above hones in on using selective censorship, allowing employees the opportunity to use social media smartly for job-related purposes."  I agree.

Read more of this article.

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