Social media has become so much a part of modern life that many people have more online friends and relationships than offline ones. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest — these are as much a part of our lives as our homes and cars and pets. Are these sites becoming a distraction to the IT service desk? Are workers losing productivity or behaving inappropriately online? Many companies are thrashing out their options, examining whether it’s a better idea to ban social media entirely, limit it, or allow it. Here are the pros and cons of the issue, along with some helpful tips for navigating toward a workable solution.
The Pros of Allowing Social Media
Let’s start with the upsides. Allowing social media is a morale booster. It’s a great lure for job candidates you might be courting, and it’s like free advertising when your workers post stuff like your special sales, your great new products, and other positive developments at your company. It’s good PR, making your organization look good within the community, and it builds valuable computer and communications skills if done properly.
Social media is an excellent tool for social research, that is, keeping your eyes and ears on the fabric of society. Your service desk will be in the know on in the worldwide industry topics and public opinion. It’s a powerful collaboration tool when workers are engaged in an ongoing project, especially when those workers are separated physically in different parts of a building or entirely separate branches of the company. Companies that allow social media can also brag about their transparency — they have nothing to hide!
The Cons of Allowing Social Media
The most commonly discussed downside is the amount of time workers waste on social media. A five minute Facebook break becomes an hour long stroll through Weird Al videos on YouTube (there are a lot of those). Social media can also damage reputations — both the reputation of your worker if one decides to go on a public rampage, and the reputation of your company if an employee decides to smear the brand or one of your managers.
Social media can also be a way for your valuable workers to find another job, possibly with one of your competitors. This is especially true of LinkedIn. It is also a potential security threat because identity thieves, phishing, and catfishing is common on these sites, and workers can easily be lured into providing their login credentials to someone who uses it for a security breach.
One thing that isn’t often mentioned when it comes to social media is the issue of legality. A number of social media policies have been struck down in courts, particularly due to issues regarding the First Amendment rights in the US and similar freedom of speech rights in the EU. For example, the National Labor Relations Board in the US struck down a policy held by an ambulance company when a worker was fired for calling her boss a, ‘scumbag’. The NLRB held that the company’s wording “offensive conduct” and “rude or discourteous behavior” was overly broad. If you do opt for a complete or partial ban on social media on the service desk, have your legal department review and sign off on its legality and potential standing within the courts.
Coming to Your Own Conclusion
The fact is, people will find a way to use social media during work hours. Your position should be making sure it’s done responsibly and doesn’t affect customer service or productivity. Either way, you aren’t in the minority. Companies are pretty evenly split between those allowing social media and those that do not.