As professional technologists, here at FPOV we are both well informed and highly opinionated on the positives and negatives of social technologies in the workplace. When you pause to consider that these tools have really only been around for about a decade, it’s hard to fathom how deeply they have now permeated our lives. As of this moment Facebook boasts over 1.5 billion users; Twitter and Instagram both have just over has 300 million active microbloggers and wannabe photographers each month; and LinkedIn just exceeded 400 million users (though only 25% of them actively use it).
The level at which we, as a population, engage in social technology has crept into our employment lives, striking fear into the hearts of some employers concerned with decreased productivity or unwanted publicity. Yet others have expertly harnessed the power of social technologies and integrated them into their digital marketing strategies to help them evangelize their missions or boost their bottom-line. In addition, the lines are getting very blurry between personal social and occupational social applications. The vast majority of today’s population between the ages of 12 and 112 are self-taught power users of social networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter; then you have the enterprise social platforms like Yammer, and Slack. Just a few short months ago, Facebook quietly introduced an enterprise version of their industry leading social network – Facebook at Work –further blurring these lines. I personally have about a dozen mainstream social icons on my mobile device for my personal use as well as administrative rights for the numerous social platforms that I use for the non-profits I work with; not to mention my role in social technology for my employer. Come to think of it, I’m fairly certain my phone is primarily serving as my social media administrative device. I don’t recall the last time it truly served as a “phone” in my life.
So as a business executive – how do you deal with this situation? Social networking policies are now just as common for employers as discrimination and paid leave policies- but how can you be certain that you minimize the negative aspects while empowering your team to use it for excellence? Ultimately, I think that social technology policies—like other policies—can be boiled down to a discussion of mutual respect. There are countless experts who might help you develop a formal policy for your shop (Bloomberg has some great tips here). I’m going to leave that to you and instead just do a quick overview of a few pros and cons surrounding social technology in your workplace as you consider how you might address the topic.
NEGATIVES OF SOCIAL TECHNOLOGY IN THE WORKPLACE
Cybersecurity: Hackers can launch spam or company wide viruses through these social platforms. They can also use them to commit fraud in your organization’s name. That’s why it’s important to protect your network with the same level of security that applies to proprietary business information. Cybersecurity is an issue with or without the social platform variable, but social tools do up the ante. Does your technology group have a solid handle on your cybersecurity situation? It is critical to be proactive when it comes to your organization’s cybersecurity.
Changing HR Legal Landscape: Many states have implemented HR laws around employees’ and perspective employees’ personal social networks. Most of the laws do not limit an employer’s ability to review public information that might be found on an applicant’s social pages, but just because it’s not unlawful doesn’t mean it’s advisable. Certain laws very specifically restrict an employer’s ability to encourage an employee to friend or add anyone to the list of contacts for his or her personal social accounts. These social platforms can also reveal a host of personal information that employers cannot legally ask for during the hiring process (and may be better off not knowing). The accelerated pace at which social technology, and the legal landscape around it, changes cause this to be a slippery slope. It’s best to understand the laws in your state on this topic if you wear a human resources hat in your organization.
Productivity Interruptions: Have you ever fallen victim to click bait? Employees accessing social platforms (even if for a work related task) while on the clock certainly can introduce a risk to your team’s productivity. Luckily – these social platforms are not the shiny new distraction that they once were. The luster has worn off, and most responsible adults can resist the temptation. If they cannot resist – well, you should perhaps host an intervention.
POSITIVES OF SOCIAL TECHNOLOGY IN THE WORKPLACE
Social Selling & Service: It’s not easy to go door to door today to sell your stuff or spread your message. Nor it is advisable, in almost every conceivable circumstance. Yet, as it turns out, it’s NOT hard to nearly replicate a door to door experience digitally…when it’s done right. Creating a one to one or personalized experience for each of your customers is not only achievable but necessary today. People expect it. They demand it. Social technologies allow organizations to develop a more intimate conversation with customers, patients, whomever they want to engage with. Organizations who use social technology properly are able to use their brand, mission, and voice to separate themselves from their competitors by becoming more than just a provider of goods and services but also a trusted source, thought leader, and charismatic entity. To do this, you must understand what these people want from your organization. All of us have that friend whom we’ve unfriended on Facebook because we couldn’t stand the content they were posting. Businesses can suffer the same fate. It’s important to anticipate what your customers want. This is accomplished by mapping the relationship journey. This will allow you to walk alongside your customers and see what content to deliver, how and when to deliver it, and where to serve it. For some, Snapchat might be a great medium to be present on. For others, it might be a waste of time.
Considering that more than 70% of adults are online, well – you do the math – Digital marketing is mission critical to your bottomline. Social technology is also an ideal place to address questions or build credibility around your brand or products. Because people are more frequently turning to digital tools to engage, the call centers of the last decade are being infiltrated by a tribe of social media monitors equipped to sell and respond to service issues, simply because that’s where the action is. This is also why it is critical to monitor your organization’s online reputation. There are a host of tools, many of them inexpensive or free, that you can use to alert yourself when your brand is mentioned online or in social spaces. A positive mention is gold, it’s the social currency of today. Negative social mentions merit calculated steps to rectify the situation
Communication & Camaraderie: Whether you use internal social platforms or let the mainstream social spaces do the heavy lifting, your employees need to connect digitally with one another in some sort of social capacity. Often they will genuinely want to. Three in five workers claim that social media results in better relationships at work, and one in three use social media to further work-related projects. Even a simple internal social communication tool, such as an intranet or group instant messaging platform like Yammer, reduces some of the hierarchical barriers that exist in your organization. Now that being said, there are the perpetual etiquette questions… “How do I handle my colleagues in mainstream social media?” “Do I send a friend request to my boss?” “Do I follow my subordinate?” What’s the right thing to do? The answer to those questions rely heavily on your organizational culture. Familiarize yourself with your state’s laws, and then construct the best social media policy for your organization and follow it.
Rivers of Information: At FPOV we teach a process called Rivers of Information. It’s essentially the streamlining of information into one’s knowledge path. Most of us have information overload. So learning how to filter and streamline your river can be a very beneficial skill. Have you read the internet lately? It’s like oxygen for the brain. Knowledge is a potent power source that can change the world, and the internet is a veritable ocean, too vast to cover in a day. So I rely on a few hundred excellent influencers on Twitter and Pocket as well as a few other choice social content platforms to accumulate some excellent articles, which I consume when I can. This is part of my river of information, and it’s actually critical for me to be excellent at my job. If you empower your team to use social media as a river of educational information- they can consume more information in a day than you ever thought possible, and this will inevitably lead to a higher level of knowledge and productivity. If you leverage the content of all the smart people in your industry, you will be excellent.
Where the rubber meets the road – it’s important to note that Social CEOs are more likely to be seen as good communicators than unsocial CEOs (55% vs. 38%, respectively). With fewer than half of all global executives (47%) describing their CEO as a good communicator, a good social presence can help change this perception (Weber Shandwick). It stands to reason, that responsible online behavior in your organization is best modeled from the top down. I leave you with this. If you are Chief Executive so and so, or a Vice President of this and such, or have any hint of those words near your title – get online, get educated, and aspire to be a digital role model for your organization. This effort will help you build stronger connections, gain more insight into your industry, inspire your team and enable you to leave a legacy of excellence.
A former CEO of three successful tech startup companies and principal at consulting firm Future Point of View, Scott Klososky specializes in seeing beyond the horizon of how technology is changing the world. His unique perspectives on technology, business culture, and the future allow him to travel the globe as an international speaker, consultant, and author, working with senior execs in organizations ranging from the Fortune 500 to universities, nonprofits, and countless professional associations and coalitions.