Are companies finally warming to social media?

I've argued many times that social media is a positive force in the workplace, so it's heartening to see that employers finally appear to be warming to social media usage in the workplace, with a 20% fall in the number of companies banning access to social media at work.

Research agency Gartner report that 50% of companies banned access to social media for employees as recently as 2010, but that by 2014 the figure is set to drop to just 30%.

"Even in those organizations that (nowadays) block all access to social media, blocks tend not to be complete," said Andrew Walls, research vice president at Gartner. "Certain departments and processes, such as marketing, require access to external social media, and employees can circumvent blocks by using personal devices such as smartphones."

"Organizations should not ignore social media and social identity," added Walls. "We recommend that organizations ascertain how they currently use internal and external social media in both official and unofficial ways, and look for dissonance between IAM practices and the identity needs, opportunities and risks of social media."

According to the report, the research firm surveyed around 1400 chief information officers and 54% of them said that social networking websites were blocked at their offices.

Research suggests that companies traditionally go through six stages of social media adoption:

  1. Folly – when people think social media is a waste of time
  2. Fearful – when people are scared of giving people a voice
  3. Flippant – neither fear nor fervor.  Build and pray approach.
  4. Formulating – when value is seen and strategies attempted
  5. Forging – where people integrate social media into their daily lives and it breaks out of a community manager/marketing dept responsibility
  6. Fusing – the most advanced attitude, when social media philosophies are at the heart of everything we do.

Central to taking a grown up approach to social media is in crafting your social media policy.  Here are some things you should think about before you create your policy.

  • What do you want to achieve?  The first step is to determine the purpose of your policy, how it will interact with your social media strategy and what goals you'll have in place to measure things.
  • Who is it for?  Do you have an individual charged with using social media?  Do you want other staff, volunteers and stakeholders using social media on your behalf?
  • What can they say?  Apple were very clear over what staff could or could not say online.  Lets be clear here, staff can be your biggest cheerleaders, but you need to give them guidelines on what is right and what is wrong.  Who do they need to go to for support if a problem falls outside their knowledge for instance.
  • How can they say it?  The culture of your organization dictates how you expect people to behave when interacting both with each other and with the outside world.  Apply this to social media.  How do you respond to customer complaints for instance?  Do you have a tone when talking with customers?  
  • Where can they say it?  Do you want staff to engage mainly on your own community or on social networks like Facebook and Twitter?  
  • When can they comment?  This isn't prescriptive, but it helps to give staff guidelines on when they'll be expected to comment online. 

With this document in place you can start to create a corporate culture that places social media at its heart and turns you into a truly social business.

Does your employer encourage use of social media at work?  If they do not, do you circumvent the rules via your smart phone?

Article first published as Are Companies Finally Warming to Social Media? on Technorati.


4 thoughts on “Are companies finally warming to social media?

  1. Interesting read. I guess the move was inevitable, what with the strong influence of Twitter and Facebook on everyday life. It seems businesses are actually nudging employees towards social media, so that they can be more in tune with what's happening out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *