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Why you need to create a social media policy

Sarah K. White | Oct. 14, 2016
Social media can be a distractions at work, but it's not always a bad thing. Help your employees use social media to network, connect and learn from others in the industry.

These workers might feel pressured by others to accept friend requests and to connect on platforms they'd rather reserve for their life outside of work.

Social media guidelines

If you want to avoid a loss of professionalism with social media in your business, you need to create guidelines, says Danehl. Social media policies are considered a part of your company culture, which means it needs to be part of training and onboarding; don't assume they know the protocol.

And as an employee -- if you're in the same boat as the 16 percent in the Ajilon study who said they weren't aware of their company's stance on social media -- ask someone. It's better to know what to expect going in, than to figure it out along the way and potentially make a social media faux pas.

Having a guideline in place can also protect your company if a legal issue pops up, says Paul Menes, Co-Head of Entertainment and Digital Media at ADLI Law Group P.C. A good policy will clearly outline what is considered appropriate, and what isn't appropriate, as well as the consequences of not following the policy; and make sure to have each employee read and sign the document, he says.

And the legalities around social media restrictions at work go both ways -- companies need to be cognizant of what they can legally block. "They can be in violation of federal and-or state laws by doing so, especially if the business allows or encourages employees to use their personal devices for business purposes," says Menes.

Social media regulations and laws can vary from state to state, as this article on Law360 from Arthur V. Lambert, partner at FisherPhillips, points out. For instance, if you look for a candidate's profiles during the hiring process you could be open to discrimination suits, or you might find coworkers connecting on social media leads to unwanted issues with harassment. But the article points out that having the right language in your policy will help protect the company -- and employees -- in the event that something goes wrong.

The positive side of social media

Breaks at work are encouraged -- get up for a walk around the office, stretch your legs and grab a cup of coffee. Social media can be viewed in the same light; Pew Research found that 40 percent of employees at companies without restrictions had used social media to take a break from work.

The study also found that workers were equally likely to cite personal reasons for using social media as they were to cite work-related reasons. Of those that said they did use social media for work-related purposes, 71 percent said they liked to use it to stay connected with colleagues, 56 said they often reached out to experts in their field and 46 percent said they used it to find information they needed to do their job. Ultimately, 56 percent of this group said they felt that social media helped their job performance, while only 22 felt it was hurting their performance.


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