How to manage social media at work

In a recent post, we outlined the advantages of giving your employees freedom to use social media while they are at work. Of course, this is feasible for some companies but not practical for others. Regardless of what type of usage suits your business, because of how wide spread social media use is among people, it's always a good idea to have some sort of social media policy in place.

Most importantly, a policy outlining how your staff can (or cannot) use social media at work, shouldn't be authoritarian. Rather, see it as an opportunity to clarify for your employees when they are welcome to use social media and when they should leave their phones and devices switched off. It should also be a productive and pro-active set of guidelines to help you encourage social media by your staff in a way that can actually benefit your business.

Here are our tips for implementing a social media policy that both employees and managers will find effective and positive.

Keep it short and sweet

Put down in writing what you deem to be an acceptable use of social media at work and be specific but not draconian.

Ensure that the policy contains details about the following:

  • When they are allowed to use it (e.g. break times).
  • What company information they can share (e.g. news of new product launches).
  • What they are not allowed to share (e.g. confidential data, anything to do with your customers).
  • What is deemed as unacceptable language or content to share.

Having a social media policy is not only important to protect the image of the business but to also prohibit staff from disclosing critical business information.

Try not to include too much detail about what will happen if an employee spends too much time on social media. Keeping it short and sweet will help your employees know what they are allowed to do, but they also won't get distracted or intimidated by threats of disciplinary action.

Is the work getting done?

Managers are human too and the chances are you spend some of your day on social media (unrelated to work) or browsing the internet, or doing something that isn't directly connected to work. What would you say if somebody challenged you on this? If your reaction is to explain that your work is still getting done, then you should consider this before you start applying rules and regulations to staff's use of social media. Are they doing what they need to do? And in a timely and productive fashion? If yes, then what exactly is your problem with your employees' use of social media occasionally at work? Answering this question will help you identify if and how you should manage your staff's use of social networks.

Find out why your staff are on social media

If you notice that a member of staff is spending a lot of time on social media, and neglecting their work duties as a result, you should try to find out why this is before you jump in and begin disciplinary proceedings. It could be that they have finished their work and are killing time as they're reluctant to ask for more (which is a separate issue). Maybe they don't understand how to do something but feel they can't ask so they're finding their own way to look busy. Perhaps they are distracted or lacking in focus because of something happening in their personal life and social media is a source of escapism.

Ask and try to understand why they are spending so much time on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, and in doing so you may also help them see they need to change their behaviour.

Ask your staff to manage your company's social media

If you do have employees who like to spend time on social media, why not ask them to spend that time working on your own social media profiles? As long as you set out clear guidelines about what can and cannot be shared, you may be surprised to see that your employees know more than you do about how to get more likes and more shares. If you have several staff members who are keen to help in this way then rotate who manages it each day - this may also encourage a bit of healthy competition between employees as they try to be more creative in building your online presence and reputation.

Appoint a "social media tsar"

Many businesses have teams dedicated to managing a company’s social media profiles but for smaller businesses this isn't possible. Aside from having staff members manage your social media profiles, think about having someone else oversee how your staff use social media at work, like a "social media tsar". Make it this person's responsibility to train employees on your social media policy and monitoring staff’s usage. The social media tsar should be someone with some knowledge of online networking. Give them responsible for explaining the social media policy to new members of staff and reminding existing members of staff about the policy through training sessions.

As a manager, by distancing yourself from this duty, you aren't automatically being seen as the over-bearing boss who wants to stop everyone having fun at work. It may also be interesting to appoint someone who uses social media quite a bit, as they will then have to lead by example!

Create good content

If you want your staff to share posts about the business, you may have to get a bit creative!

As with all social media, the key to encouraging people to share something is for that something to be good in the first place, be it entertaining, interesting or inspiring. People also like to share news first, so if your company has a new product or special offer, encourage your staff to talk about it on social media and you could even consider an affiliate scheme for staff so that they get commission from any sales they generate that way. On this note, you’d be surprised how often people share good things that happen to them at work, so be active in how you thank and show your appreciation to your staff – they may well share it online!

Be realistic... and be nice

It’s impossible to control what your staff is doing on social media, and the chances are you won’t know if you’re not connected with them on their chosen platforms. Rather than getting too upset about the potentially damaging things your staff may be saying about you or your company – or restricting how much they are on their phones at work, etc. - focus on giving them a reason to say good things about you, by being a supportive and friendly manager and colleague.

About the author

Emma Saldanha is a content creator here at Findmyshift. Emma has more than 10 years experience in content creation, marketing and PR. In between writing for Findmyshift, Emma writes marketing and branding advice for small to medium business on her blog, writtenbyems. Connect with Emma on Twitter and Facebook.