How to Take Advantage of Social Media in the Workplace

Letting your employees use social media in the workplace might sound counterproductive. Many companies see it as nothing more than a productivity killer, which is probably why more than half of U.S. employers block social sites on work computers. But if you’re worried about employees spending their time browsing Facebook instead of working, try to resist the urge to cut off access to social media entirely. Not only is it ineffective (after all, almost all of your employees have smartphones where they can access social sites), but you could be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Social Media in the Workplace: Not All Bad?

People don’t always trust brands, but people do trust other people. “Brands are trying to sell you something,” says Tyler King, senior social media manager at BambooHR. “[But] when a person shares your content, it’s a vote of confidence in their social networks.”

Social media can be a distracting productivity-killer, it’s true—but if you’re able to block employees from accessing it, you’re also cutting your company off from potential value that comes from employees posting about your business on social media and interacting with your company’s social posts.

“When it comes to working for your company, people want to know what your employees think about your culture. When your employees share their stories, that helps build your brand.” —Tyler King, senior social media manager at BambooHR

We’re not saying you should incentivize employees to post about your business or make them feel like it’s a requirement as this could set a bad cultural precedent. But when you create a great place to work, employees will naturally want to share their experience working at your company with their social media circles, and that can be incredibly beneficial to your social media strategy and your brand.

What Are the Other Pros (and Cons) of Using Social Media in the Workplace?

Allowing your employees access to social media in the workplace may be an important piece of your social media strategy from a marketing perspective, but social media is also a great place to focus your recruitment efforts, as we’ll explore in more detail later on. Another pro is the surprising fact that social media use (in moderation) can actually boost productivity by providing employees with a mental breather during short breaks throughout the day.

But while social media in the workplace has its advantages, there are also cons to consider, outside of excessive, non-strategic use. It’s important to note that certain types of employee communication on social media is protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, specifically in regards to discussions of wages and working conditions among employees. Other use types may not be, however, with the National Labor Relations Board summarizing that “an employee’s comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees.”

Before taking adverse action based on an employee’s social media activity, it’s important to be able to identify the difference between protected and unprotected activity, and consult with legal counsel if necessary, so as not to inadvertently infringe on the legal rights of employees.

Another con to consider is the possibility that using social media platforms on a company’s networks could cause:

Additionally, if crimes are committed—from defamation to cyberstalking, and even more serious crimes like those related to child pornography—through the use of business computers and during work hours, it’s possible that the employer might face liability issues resulting in fines or even jail time.

Can Social Media Really Increase Productivity in the Workplace?

Social media allows employees to take a break during the work day, enabling a boost in both morale and productivity, as well as a stress reliever and moment to refocus before diving back into a project. Additionally, McKinsey Global Institute found that fully making use of social media tools to share knowledge, bolster communication, and encourage collaboration can increase productivity by up to 25 percent.

How Is Social Media Used in the Workplace?

Research on social media has shown that it has major advantages to being used in the workplace. Often, employees use social media as a minibreak, to recharge or contact friends or family. But businesses have been more active on social networks for more direct work purposes as well, including:

Why Is Social Media Important in the Workplace?

Social media can be used to connect with customers while also making your business seem more accessible. By choosing to follow your brand alongside their friends and family, customers use social media to welcome you into their online lives. That connection can’t be minimized. Featuring employees or company accomplishments on the corporate social media accounts can also:

How to Make Social Media Work for Your Workplace

When you embrace that employees will inevitably use social media at work, you can focus on how to guide it towards benefiting your company rather than how to fight it. At BambooHR, we encourage employees to post stories about their successes at work and to give company posts a “like” or share on social media if they want to—it’s strictly optional, and we make that very clear. We love it when they do, though, because we know that no matter how trustworthy we are as a brand, there’s always a natural skepticism that comes from having a product to sell. When an employee posts about their employer, however, people tend to view it as more honest—even though they’re aware the employee is paid by the company.

That’s just one way to leverage the power of social media for the benefit of your business. Here are some other ways social media use in the workplace can benefit your organization.

Recruiting Using Social Media

It’s no secret that candidates are increasingly turning to social media to discover company brands and look for jobs. If you need proof, just ask the 84 percent of companies that are using social media for recruiting.

But “when it comes to working for your company, people don’t want to hear the company talking about culture,” says Tyler. “They want to know what your employees think about your culture. When your employees share their stories, that helps build your brand.”

If you already have a feed filled with engaging content, product awards, and pictures from company events, that’s an excellent start. But if you can support branded content with authentic and honest thoughts from real employees, that’s when job seekers start thinking, “I want to work for this company.”

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Social media is the perfect place to showcase what an incredible work environment you have. Employee participation is the key ingredient that makes that environment feel real, rather than designed for public consumption. Some people might be impressed by your achievements alone, but culture-conscious candidates are seeking something “more authentic than just a bunch of posts from your brand telling people how great you are.”

Promoting Without Spending

“[Social media] algorithms are built to limit the reach of the content that brands share,” explains King. “The social networks want you to spend money to have your audience see your content.” That means even if you’re making the right content to engage your audience, you could still remain invisible if you’re not paying to promote it. And if you’re like many small businesses, you might not have a lot of money to dedicate to a social media strategy.

One way around this hurdle? You guessed it: your employees can be a valuable part of helping boost your social media posts. “When employees share your content, it tells the algorithms that people like your content, and then it gets shared with more of your audience.” That means when you create content, you should start thinking about your employees—not just customers—as your audience. Creating content that employees will want to follow and interact with can not only save your company money, but can make sure your content gets in front of the right people. Think about it: if employees are the best source for recruiting referrals, it makes sense that they might be connected to plenty of potential customers as well.

Training Employees on Social Media Use in the Workplace

Giving your employees some training on how social media is used in the workplace can help them understand how sharing their experience with your company benefits the business. You can also teach them some basics of using social media wisely in the workplace. If you have an onboarding process that is spread out over several weeks or months, you might want to include a social media class. You can introduce the company’s social media accounts, your brand voice, and what to avoid when making posts. A simple list of do’s and don’ts can give helpful guidance for employees.

Any organization looking to get the most out of social media needs to understand and harness the power of employee influence. That means thinking beyond a simple branded presence on social media and, while you’re at it, setting aside your worries about social media distractions. Because if your company is creating promotional content, the best outcome you can hope for is that employees will be eager to interact with what you’re posting. And if you want to attract the kind of talent your company needs to be successful, you should be grateful for every employee who shares with their social media circles how excited they are about their job, the amazing work they are doing, and the company milestones they help your organization achieve. When employees have proper guidance, social media doesn’t have to be a top concern. Instead, employees using social media in the workplace can be something your whole business benefits from.

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