Banning Social Media Doesn’t Work, Education Does





What does your inhouse social media policy look like? Does it include banning employees from using sites like Twitter and Facebook during work hours? If so, you may want to rethink it. Because, well, it’s not working.

eMarketer reported on a new study from security solutions provider nCircle that found three-fifths of US security and IT professionals say their company has a social media policy and that 40 percent of those policies actually ban all usage of social media while on the job. This is comparable to last year’s report that 54 percent of CIOs ban social media in the workplace. However, even though employers may have legitimate (though, outdated) concerns for not wanting employees engaging in social media during work hours, nCircle’s Director of Security Operations Andrew Storms rightly calls strictly banning it a ‘knee-jerk reaction’.

From eMarketer:

Even though almost 40% of respondents ban employee social media use, this type of policy is a knee-jerk reaction to the serious security risks associated with social media and is not necessarily effective.

It’s not effective because, like it or not, social media is part of your employee’s lives the same way that texting and checking personal email is. Nearly twenty-four percent of Facebook users say they access the site “all the time” while at work, with 35 percent admitting to accessing it occasionally. That type of use isn’t going to die off simply because employers ban use. And if employees are going to be out there in social media during work hours, wouldn’t you prefer them use it responsibly? Perhaps to help promote and foster your brand?

And again, like it or not, social media is also part of your business. Just because you’re not engaging in it, doesn’t mean your brand isn’t being talked about. And just because you can (theoretically) keep employees off during “office hours”, doesn’t mean they can’t go home and get your brand in trouble from the safety of their home computers.

Instead of banning, educate.

Create social media policies that don’t prohibit its use, but instead show employees the proper way of engaging and what they are and are not permitted to put out there about the company. Oftentimes employees get themselves (and you) into trouble because they don’t realize they weren’t supposed to share something or they’re not aware of the dangers. By educating them on the proper use, you grow a team of brand evangelists instead of creating an environment where folks not thinking tweeting about how much they hate their job.

How do you go about educating?

  • Define what “social media” is and which sites fall under that classification.
  • Talk about what can and cannot be discussed – ie company secrets, company information, legal situations, offensive comments, libelous statements, meetings, personnel, etc.
  • Show them social media policies from other organizations. I recommend checking out this online database of social media policies.
  • Explain how social media can help the company and how they can be part of that – how to engage customers, how to share information, etc.
  • Offer social media training, if possible.

The important thing is to realize that social media isn’t going away and it’s not going to become less part of your employees’ lives. Banning it won’t work, but education employees on how to use social media responsible may.

11 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

11 Reactions

  1. So Lisa, are you volunteering to do all of this education? Because I think you’d be great.

  2. Lisa,

    Another fine post. It’s true;

    “And again, like it or not, social media is also part of your business. Just because you’re not engaging in it, doesn’t mean your brand isn’t being talked about.”

    People are talking about your brand. Talk back, with the right policies, and with the right employees.

    It will all work out.

    The Franchise King

  3. I agree with education but after my three year old my daughter was nearly run down last fall by a texting driver, I scoured the cell phone companies offerings for some kind of tool to manage my texting. I found nothing but a few software and hardware solutions that, in fine Big Brother form, locked down your phone and only addressed the driving issue.

    Please check out OTTER (http://www.OTTERapp.com). This is a text management app for the home, office or on the road. It has unlimited response lists to manage your customizable responses. It has a simple Auto Reply feature with optional timer. We’ve found that students and business people are scheduling “texting blackout periods” with OTTER so they can focus on studying or meetings. I have a buddy at Wells Fargo who told me the other day that if he could stop mid meeting texting his work group’s productivity would increase by 40%. 40%?!

    For people who want to self govern their texting & driving temptations, there is a simple GPS Mode that silences incoming text and call notifications while sending out a single customizable reply. Wireless Bluetooth devices work fine with OTTER. My friend used this the other day when he was driving to the desert. The GPS picked up that he was in a moving vehicle and sent his text reply that said “I am driving to Palm Springs – I’ll be in touch around 2pm”. For parents of texting teen drivers, OTTER also offers a Parental Control feature that is easy to use and GPS based.

    OTTER is one of the only – if not the only app of its kind that is sold for $3.99 with no recurring fees. We also created OTTER-urban for the smart phone user who is not interested in the GPS features and its only $1.99.

    Please let us know what you think. We are always looking to improve and your feedback is key. Thanks,

    Erik Wood
    OTTER LLC
    http://www.OTTERapp.com

  4. Social media is the new marketing platform and businesses need to learn to adapt to that as well. Instead of having employees that are busy on their own social platforms, companies should seek out their own super-users and reward them to promote the company itself.

    Besides, there is no stopping all of the mobile applications that people can easily access from a cell phone. It will only get abused by the employees that don’t ahve enough work to do in the first place.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  5. Georgina Clelland

    Education is key. Creating a policy like the one from IBM (available in the blog post below) will help employees and executives educate.

    http://www.aiimcommunities.org/e20/blog/big-blue-and-social-revolution

  6. Martin Lindeskog

    If companies ban social media activities at work, how should they tackle coffee breaks and water cooler conversations? I am informing company leaders that they could use social media as a great powerhouse of business intelligence information. My mission will be to evangelize about the great business opportunities if you are implementing new media into the whole supply and value chain.

  7. Martin Lindeskog

    Lisa: Another comment! 😉 Thanks for informing us about SocialMediaGovernance.com. I have to check it out.

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