Throughout my time as a business woman, which has been more years than I care to count, I’ve been asked by several companies to speak to their PR/marketing department about their respective social media presences. Now, we all know the benefits of using social media, especially if you want to brand your company as being open, friendly and accessible. You have an open market for reaching the masses (aka your potential customers and clients). You have an open window for free market research. You have customers who are willing and able to communicate with you to tell you how your company did. Transparency is key, yes?
In fact, transparency is the top buzzword of clients and businesses alike. How do your business processes work? What about your shipping policy? Do you do anything special with your proceeds? Sharing the answers to these questions with potential customers, whether in a news feed somewhere, on social media or in blog posts, can make a huge difference in how your company is perceived.
However, many upper management types worry that social media may have a dark side. Sure, so 140 character conversations turn into 500 new customers, company advocates and so on. Fantastic ROI, yeah? Yeah. But then there’s questions like:
- What about employee productivity?
- What about issues with account hacking?
- What about security?
- What about unhappy ex-employees?
Of course, we’ve all heard of the havoc one upset intern can cause your reputation, legal liability and other customer relation nightmares. Many companies incorporated social media with a proverbial arm twisted behind their backs. They did it, but they weren’t happy about it.
To be honest, the concerns over possible negative repercussions is legitimate. For instance, whether a company infrastructure is based on a Mac, PC or Linux system, every online minute is a possible exposure to security threats.
Whether you decide to ban social media use while your employees are on the clock is up to you. However, if you ban social networking due to security risks, you might as well ban the Internet as well. Instead, consider the options. You can set limits and use restrictions, some companies have chosen this route, or allow unmonitored access.
Rather than block the Internet, information and intelligence are the best protection against security leaks and more. This is not to say your employees would give out sensitive information on purpose, but social networks push people to share everything about themselves. They may unwittingly give important information away. Here are three ways to protect your company and still let your employees have their freedom.
Before your employees start work, after they’re finished with work, on breaks or during lunch, allow them access to social networking sites. With web filtering software, you can set time-based access to specific sites.
Don’t let your employees stay in the dark; knowledge is too important. Let them know what can cause security issues. If need be, have a security systems expert come in. Make sure they know clicking on a link can cause malware to download on their machine. Some popups automatically download a virus – even if you click on the “x” to close it down. Keep your staff educated!
What can your employees do during office hours? Can they talk about their personal life on Twitter? Do you expect them to stay focused on business even during lunch on social sites? Lay out your policies for online security and usage.
Make sure your employees sign these policies and know what the disciplinary action will be if the policies aren’t followed. While some business owners still struggle to decide whether (and how) they should implement social media, millions of others have already done so. Why?
Social media has proven itself by now to be more than just a fad. Building relationships is the number one commodity in today’s profersional society. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are some of the fastest growing sites – ever. In fact, once you set your mind to finally joining the world of social media, you’ll find out just how much business growth is possible… in 140 characters or less.