USP Creative

Social media in the workplace - the double edge sword

29/04/2016
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16 years ago, as people logged into Friends Reunited for the first time, it’s fair to say that no one could have predicted the behemoth that Social Media would become. The online world has moved rapidly from reconnecting with former classmates to encouraging us to share across a host of platforms. Looking for a new job? Upload your CV to LinkedIn. At a fancy restaurant? Take an artfully posed shot of your dinner for Instagram. Just got back off your holidays? Be sure to upload all your photos on Facebook!

Social Media has integrated neatly into our lives, further intensified by the increase in mobile technology. Over two thirds of the UK own a smartphone, with one third of them checking them within 5 minutes of waking up. Google reported last year that more searches were made on mobile than on desktop, and over 100 billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store.

Such accessibility can promote a nonchalant attitude, for example logging into the Facebook app doesn’t require a password allowing users can update their account without that pause of formality. Such ease can lead to less self-regulation meaning that users might share more of themselves than they usually would.

For Facebook this is great news. They want to know as much as possible about their users, so they can more accurately target adverts by monetising the information they collect.  However there are situations where a lax attitude towards social media can be detrimental.  93% of companies review a candidate’s social media before hiring, with 55% reconsidering whether to offer them a job. Political views, posts about alcohol, even poor grammar can lead to a change of mind. So prevalent has this become that ACAS have suggested employers shy away from using this as a factor in the hiring process as it might be seen as “discriminatory and unfair”.

Additionally, there is the question of social media within the workplace and how to best manage it. The days of zero tolerance policies are fast being consigned to the history books, as companies realise it’s more important to coach staff on how to behave on social media rather than implement a blanket ban which can lead to disengagement and an unhappy workforce.

With a large proportion of the “millennial” generation having grown up in a connected internet age, they are predisposed to using it as a means of communication. Rather than attempt to stem this, a growing number of companies are harnessing it as a tool, empowering their employees to talk about their projects and promote the company they work for across various platforms. Others have adopted in-house social networks such as Yammer to encourage employees to engage with their work mates on a more relaxed basis than emails can offer.

As previously stated, the key to this is education. Dependant on the industry, the level of training required can differ – for those in a regulated sector such as Financial Services, an in-depth understanding of what needs to be adhered to in order to ensure compliancy is essential; in the fast paced social media channel a mistake can be costly both in terms of reputation and potential breach of the guidelines.

Investing in this training will pay off with the ability to directly liaise with customers and firefight potential issues in a speedy manner.  With the public turning ever more to social media when voicing complaints, it’s extremely useful to have a strong and effective online team who can diffuse both the initial grievance and in turn protect the brand reputation.

Due to the fast paced nature of the work, it’s often the case that a position will need to be devoted solely to it, as five minutes online is equivalent to 24 hours offline. Brands that recognise and implement this will reap rewards; social media is exactly that – social - and so ensuring that there is someone there who can facilitate a two way conversation is more advantageous than occasionally pushing out polished marketing tweets. Authenticity and a human approach will always outweigh a promoted paid tweet campaign.

This is not to say that they aren’t a useful tool; implementing a paid keyword campaign can allow a brand to be noticed by an audience who aren’t already following and engaged. However there is a cynicism around these posts, with many users across the various platforms becoming annoyed that their personally curated feeds are being gate-crashed with content they haven‘t subscribed too.

Another area which can damage a brand is the temptation to bandwagon onto current events and shoehorn popular culture into tweets. The advantage of showing up in search results is quickly overshadowed by the negative backlash that will follow. Additionally, a mistake made online takes a very long time to vanish and is likely to be picked up by media outlets

However, as long as your social media manager is well informed, up to date with training, enthusiastic and personable, there is no reason to be scared of the online world. As the renowned sociologist Erik Qualman once noted “We don't have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it”.