10 reasons NOT to block social networking at work


10 reasons NOT to block social networking at work

March 27, 2012, 7:30 AM PDT
Takeaway: Jack Wallen says employees should have access to social networking sites at work. See if you agree with his reasoning and take our poll to let us know where you stand.
I get it… You’re completely convinced that allowing your employees to get on Facebook and Twitter would pull the rug out from under your bottom line. Because of that, you block chat, tweets, and all other social networking to make sure your workers are doing only what you pay them for. I am here, however, to suggest that there can be a backlash from that approach. Social networking can actually help you in the long run, and I want to try to open your eyes to this fact. In the end, of course, it’s your business and your call. But let’s see if you can be swayed.

1: Morale

Back in the ’90s, people wanted to be hired by companies that were cool to work for. And when the employees actually enjoyed working for a company, they did their best work. Morale is a huge aspect of the business world, but few owners and managers seem to get it. Low morale among the workers breeds contempt, and contempt breeds disloyalty. Disloyalty, as you know, breeds attrition.

2: Reputation

Your reputation is everything in business. And in this day of instant gratification and notification, finding yourself with a reputation going down the drain is little more than a disgruntled employee away. That does not mean you must cater to every whim and folly of your employees. But giving them tiny crumbs (like social media access) will go a long way toward keeping your reputation healthy.

3: Communication

Communication — whether it’s internal or external — is key to business success. One of the fastest means of communication today is social networking. In fact, it’s just about the most immediate form of communication you can find. Your employees may be communicating with the outside world, but many of those people on the outside are consumers and possible clients.

4: Advertising

Dare I say “free advertising”? I dare and I do. Social networking brings to businesses a boon of free advertising. You can’t afford not to hop onto this bandwagon. And getting on board early shows the public that you are an agile, aware company. Allowing your employees to take advantage of social networking also shows you care about them. In this society, caring goes a long way. All of that makes for some seriously powerful advertising.

5: Collaboration

Social networking facilitates collaboration internally, but it also lets users collaborate with the entire world. I have done this countless times. When I’ve been stuck on an idea, I call out to my followers on Twitter or Facebook to get a deluge of answers. It’s free and it’s fast.

6: Social research

You need your finger on the pulse of society. You can get this with your employees on social networking sites. In fact, you’ll have instant access to the court of public opinion even as it evolves in front of you. This is another (free) way to expand your company’s reach.

7: Skill building

Your company and its employees need to know how to use social networking effectively. Why? Because our society is on a collision course with an even further embedding of social media into our lives. You want your company and your employees at the forefront of that trend. At some point, your employees may have to use social networking to market and sell your product. Allowing them to use it on a daily basis now will ensure that they’re social media savvy, without the need for training.

8: Transparency

The world wants transparency. We’ve seen it from every level of business and government. Allowing your employees to participate in social networking illustrates to your employees’ social circle that you mean business when it comes to employee retention and happiness. Today’s consumers and society eat that up. But if they see a company deliberately squelching the employee voice and hiding behind the walls of security and information blocking, there will be a backlash. Transparency can go a long way toward boosting customer loyalty as well as your customers’ faith in you as a business within the community.

9: PR

Blocking social media may unleash PR problems. The effects of blocking social media will trickle down to the public — quickly. And although you might not think so, this can quickly snowball into a PR nightmare, especially as more and more young employees — who depend upon social networking — join the workforce.

10: Networking

You want your company to network. You want your employees to network. You want your employees to know what other companies are doing and to be in touch with the heartbeat of your market. What better way to accomplish this than with social networking? Yes, they can network with email, but not on as grand a scale.

Worth a try?

For most managers and executives, the bottom line will yank the rug out from under these reasons. But times are changing and it’s certainly best to keep up rather than scramble to bridge gaps and fill holes. I would highly recommend allowing social networking in your company — even if only experimentally. See how it affects performance and morale and then decide whether it’s a perk worth keeping.

Take our poll, cast your vote

In 2009, we asked TechRepublic members whether their organizations blocked social networking sites. Almost three-fourths of respondents said yes.

2009 poll results:

To get an idea of whether the situation has changed in the last three years, we decided to repeat the poll and get some current results. Please take the poll and let us know where your company stands on the issue. Then cast your vote and let us know how you feel about workplace access to social networking.