Do You Have A Social Media Policy For Your Organization

by: Amit Desai

I am a firm believer of using social media to aid organizational productivity and I always advocate and encourage use of various social media applications like blogs, networking sites, wiki's within my organization. Past couple of months I have been analyzing time spent by my employees on these social networking sites and measuring its effectiveness against increase in productivity or against generating / facilitating business. The analysis was based on social media and its direct impact on productivity. Though the over results are positive but there were some areas of concerns that I would like to highlight in this article. My analysis pointed out that in certain cases there was a high percentage of unproductive time spent on these sites which lead to loss in productivity. I am not sure if there should be a clear cut policy that restricts the usage of social media sites or should one adopt an evolutionary process by making the employees realize the good and bad of it and treat it accordingly. My analysis was I have conducted

Areas of concern:

* Excessive time spent networking sites: leads to loss of focus and loss of time. These activities include chatting with friends, updating social profiles of sites like Facebook , MySpace and other such sites and not really focusing on work realted interactions.
* High usage of bandwidth: people upload pictures, presentations, videos purely for purpose to add fun element in their social media adventure which leads to high usage of bandwidth and time.
* Public image of the company: people will have to be very careful about what they say about your company, the projects that they work on and the team that they are involved in as this can really damage your reputation. This is the most important as the internet world consists of your potential clients and employees
* Viral effect: once someone gets a message/ pictures they keep involving the rest of the employees and the viral keeps on viraling leading to again loss of time

My analysis has made me realise that there has to be a social media policy for every organization. Please do not confuse it with your IT policy as the major difference is you ideally want to restrict users from abusing your IT infrastructure and hence strict guidelines of Do's and Don'ts is possible but in case of social media you want to encourage interaction of employees internally and externally to derive benefits for your business. In this scenario you will have to develop a policy which encourages yet restrict use of social media.

Points to be considered while formulating social media policy:

* Explain why you need this policy, this will help get buy in from your employees
* How will you provide access to your employees, pointers could be:
o Hierarchy wise access (Sr Manages, Managers, Juniors)
o Time bound usage (An hour a day at one time or spread during the day)
o Department wise access
o Roles wise access and usage (Marketing , operations, customer support, PR)
* Set measurement mechanism connecting use of social media and productivity based on the above mentioned access
* Create guidelines where people take responsibility of what they write about the organisation
* If the employee is using the sites for work purpose then they represent them by name of the organization as compared to personal names.

I suggest you conduct an exercise to measure the use of networking sites within your organisation and start acting on creating a policy for usage of social media before its too late.

If this article got you thinking on how to develop social media policy then these resources can help you develop Social media policy for your organizations:

* 30 sample policies of various organizations by
* How to develop social media policy
* Social Media policy by Mashable
* Top 10 guidelines for social media participation at a company by Shift Communications (PDF)
* Telstra releases social media policy
* Sun's Guidelines on public disclosure
* Intel Social Media Guidelines