Social Media in the Workplace: Human Resources Friend or Foe?

by RunningMan

Five things to be wary of in the workplace when social media and human resources collide.

Social media has wormed its way into every aspect of business, from marketing to sales service. Although an incredibly useful and cost-effective way to take your company to the next level, social media can be go downhill—fast. In addition to keeping an eye on the basics, like spelling, grammar and fact checking, employers run the risk of ruined brand reputations, wasted time, office conflicts, copyright infringement and cyber bullying. If not managed properly, social media can quickly become an HR consulting nightmare.

Brand Reputation

Businesses put a lot of time, money and effort into keeping up their brand reputation. Add social media into the mix and things get even trickier. Not only do you have to worry about what customers are saying online, but you also have to keep a close eye on employees to make sure they’re not behaving inappropriately. It might be something as innocent as accidentally mixing up their personal and work accounts, but employees have also been known to use corporate social media accounts to vent their anger towards the company. Beware.

The fix: Obviously, you'll need to choose the most trustworthy person possible to manage your company's social media accounts. But on top of that, maintaining consistent company usernames across all social networks makes it easier to monitor what's being posted. A quick Google search will return all social media posts, as well as everythingboth positive and negativethat other users are saying about your company.

Time Wasting

It’s one thing for an employee to check their personal Facebook page every now and then, but it’s another for them to spend the whole day tweeting about themselves when they’re supposed to be promoting the company. You know what they say: Time is Money.

The fix: Employees may not realize just how much time they're wasting on Facebook, Reddit, personal emails or random Googling. We all know how one Facebook post turns into another Facebook post, then a Facebook message, then looking up an old friend, then Googling said friend to find out what they're up to...and suddenly an hour has passed. The solution? Time tracking. Whether you ask your employees to do it officially in an office-wide system or unofficially on a notepad, seeing exactly where their hours are going will open their eyes and help them make better use of their time.

Social Media Background Checks

Although it’s tempting to check out potential employees on Twitter and Facebook before hiring them, it’s not always the best idea. All that research will take the focus off job-related skills and potentially open the door to personal judgements. Also remember that private lives are very different from public lives—just because an employee had a few beers at a concert on Saturday night doesn’t mean they’re going to show up to work hungover every day.

The fix: Just don't do it. Don't search for them on Facebook and don't Google them. Every employee deserves a fair chance at the interview and internet-stalking them will only overload you with unrelated information.

Copyright Infringement

It can be tough to come up with enough fresh, daily content to fill all of your company’s social networking needs. So, employees may try to cut corners by pilfering articles and photos from related websites. That kind of behaviour is not only unethical and lazy, but it can also result in serious legal issues, hefty fines, or worse.

The fix: Help your social media managers find original content. Show them how to use the Google Keyword Tool to find what customers are searching for, set up Google Alerts to automatically monitor the web for interesting content and follow industry conversations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blog networks to get a good sense of what people are talking about. Still stuck? Post something fun from the office: photos from staff parties (tasteful ones, that is), funny anecdotes from the office, or fun tidbits about staff members.

Cyber Bullying

Some misguided employees may use social media as an outlet to vent their frustrations with other staff members. This is classic cyber bullying, and it must be monitored 24/7. One negative post can result in heaps of unwanted negative tension within the workplace.

The fix: Create awareness and establish a policy. Just like traditional bullying, cyber bullying is about power and control in workplace relationships, so make it clear to employees exactly what it is and what to do if it happens to them. Make it very obvious that there are harsh consequences for engaging in this type of behavior, and if you like you can even establish an official policy on internet/technology usage.

Updated: 07/05/2012, RunningMan
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