Despite all that’s been written about social media and the explosive growth of sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and many others, most business leaders have a lot to learn. Less than a quarter of them are connected or have policies or strategies in this area.
This new phenomenon, according to Tom Wetzel, marketing consultant, “ain’t goin’ away.” A survey by Deloitte LLP reports 55% of employees visit social networking sites once a week, and 20% admit to doing so during work hours – in all probability this use is much higher than disclosed, and growing.
The business risks of employee actions are not just about loss of productivity – they also include possible release of private information and trade secrets, harassing or discriminatory comments linked back to you, and damage to your reputation. Comments can be deliberate or accidental. 74% of employees say it’s easy to damage a brand’s reputation, and 33% don’t consider the business implications of internet postings.
As a businessperson, you may think you can stop these practices during work time and on business equipment. Unfortunately, the choice is probably no longer realistic. Employees can access sites during breaks and via smart phones. Trying to impose usage restrictions may intensify negative feelings and comments.
How can you protect your business and reputation? ~
More than half of employees say that even new policies and procedures won’t change their behavior. Deloitte advocates a strong emphasis on culture, values and ethics to “encourage good decision-making in virtual social networking environments.”
My recommendations for managing this as an “emerging risk” include ~
- Learn as much as you can: take courses, follow on-line webinars, etc.
- Create positive policies everyone can buy into: an online strategy for the firm; flexible guidelines for employees. You’ll need to explain some of the dangers to the business and jobs and get everyone on board. See IBM’s Guidelines as an example of something created with employee involvement.
- Find ways to keep an eye on what others are saying: put up a business page on Facebook, open a Twitter account, and use Google Alerts, for example. Empower your employees to help monitor these accounts.
- Complaints (about you or others in your industry) can be golden opportunities, if you catch them quickly. Responding with positive suggestions or offering to have a conversation to help resolve issues can be terrific business-builders.
- Discuss Media or Cyber liability insurance policies with your broker to protect yourself from some of the more onerous lawsuits and losses you may be subject to.
As Dylan implies, “lead, follow or get out of the way” and if you choose the latter, be careful not to get run over!