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Why businesses need to understand social media and their employees

Social media is here to stay and businesses all over the world are using it, or scrambling to understand it, for many different reasons. Some realise it’s the new way of the modern world, some realise they need to keep up, and some just know they should be on it; even if they don’t understand what the benefits are.

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But some businesses fear social media, and that worries us.

Recently at a business development day, one of the speakers told us that businesses should stop the use of social media by their employees as it’s a time sap on the company employing them. Whilst this may be true, one company in the room then said that they had blocked social media channels from their Internet system all together. What happened? Yes you guessed, staff just used their smartphones to access it instead.

Whilst this is bound to happen, like when you tell a child not to do something, I worry that the business had missed a trick. Being the outspoken passionate social media chap that I am, I of course made my point known.

“Social media is the number one activity on the Internet, and it's not dying out. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the other channels are a part of everyday life for the majority of people. Understanding that people use them is important, but engaging and watching should be high on a business’s agenda.”

A while back, we worked with a business with an employee who activity complained about the company on Facebook. The reason they knew was because they were active on Facebook as well. They understood the language and who saw the posts, so we created a social media policy for them to help both sides agree on the correct use in future.

The reason I mention this is because if the business I mentioned were not on social media, if the MDs of the company didn’t have a Facebook account, if they blocked all knowledge of the activity full stop, then they wouldn’t have been able to resolve the HR issue they had. Who knows where it would've lead, and what damage it would’ve done to the company’s brand?

Not convinced? Let's think about social media as a language

The use of words and phrases on social media is different from everyday life, and understanding it is often the main problem to businesses or people new to it. If you had 200 employees who all spoke a different language then that would create a barrier and you would most certainly employee a translator.

Or think of social media as a place

If your employees discuss their problems with your HR department or a member of the union, then you have all the issues in hand. If they choose to discuss their issues outside of work, in another place (Facebook) then you can’t monitor or react to it – therein lies a worrying problem.

Or think of social media as a common ground

If you really want to be accepted, respected as an employer, or listened to, you often have to meet on common ground, or sometimes you accept that people are happier on their own turf. Imagine if you could pop to your employees’ local pub and listen to or interact with them, or at least know what they like to drink.

Understanding, listening and interacting on their terms and showing that you not only understand them, but are willing to engage with them in their chosen language, is a powerful thing. I’m certain many businesses don’t see it this way. Just because you don’t understand something, just because you don’t agree with something, and just because you don’t think it’s productive, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Or think of social media as a break

Social media is much like a break. Everyone needs a break in the day to keep them focused - and just think what would happen if you stopped a 200-strong workforce from doing something that they feel compelled to do. Social media may not seem as important to a business as breaks, but it is fast becoming so to the users. Understanding what’s important to the people in its workforce is surely something a business needs to get!

Have your say - what do you think?

Have you banned social media at work, or are you annoyed about being stopped from tweeting from the office? We'd love to hear your views below. 

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My name is Graham Todd and I’ve been immersed in social media for almost three years. I train, blog and manage social media for business.

Find me on Google+

Leave a comment

Posted by PriyaStrongleaf on
I use social media as an outlet, or break. What i do or think about a company is mine alone. I previously worked for a company who had a pretty stringent social media policy. not only could we not say the name of the international chain we worked for, we had to put a disclaimer in our profile that 'the opinions are our own' etc. then again, i am a low-level worker. My boss is also on social media, and it helps when he comments or likes my status's about grievances. it shows me that my boss is a feeling human being, and while we work within the corporate constraints while at work, we are all still human in the end.
Posted by admin on
Great comment. And you're right, we are all human at the end of the day!
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