Friday, July 8, 2011

Social Media: The Bad Kid on the (PR) Block

Remember that childhood friend that you were told not to hang out with because he/she was a “distraction”? Mom and dad just wouldn’t listen when you told them that (insert friend’s name here) was misunderstood and that you were perfectly capable of getting good grades while maintaining that friendship.
Well, it looks like we haven’t grown up that much. Only now that friend is social media and our parents have been replaced with our employers.

It’s no secret that many executives view social media as a distraction to staffers and a direct cause of decreased productivity. As recently as a few weeks ago, CBS Radio News confirmed these fears with a report that undermined the value of social media and highlighted its detriments in the workplace. Skepticism from top level management prevails, despite all of the research that proves the positive effects of social media as a public relations, communications, marketing and human resources tool.

In response to the propaganda that social media is destroying employee focus, more and more employers instruct IT departments to ban access in the office. Sound similar to the grounding you got in middle school? That’s because it is. Only this enforced discipline is not just a frustrating inconvenience, it’s impeding the efforts of the nice folks in the public relations and corporate communications department.

Social media is effective only if it is allowed to be social. And communications is founded in networks and relationships. By severing the ties to social media within an organization, companies are missing out on the greatest (and most economical) form of publicity—the endorsement of employees. Employees are most inspired to praise the efforts and culture of their company while at work. But if they can’t log in and tweet about that great professional development seminar, a prime public relations opportunity is lost. Furthermore, the primary and most devoted followers of a company’s Facebook page, YouTube site or LinkedIn group should naturally be the staff. Is it fair to expect that same enthusiasm when they can only check in for updates during the evening?
However, there is hope. Ragan reports that the top ranked companies are in fact adopting policies of trust in regards to social media and realize that to recruit the top performers of GenY, an open door approach is imperative. Not only does allowing access to social media promote employee retention, it builds a vested interest in the firm and its success among staff.
So, to all of you doubtful execs out there, give social media a chance in the workplace. We promise to behave.  

A Dilbert cartoon parodies bans on social media in the workplace.



  1. Completely agree. I learned early on in the program about the Page Principles. One of the guiding principles is that an organization's employees should be its greatest ambassador. If an organizations bans it employees from these websites it ceases to allow them to build up the brand via social media. Yes, there will be the slackers who spend half their day on Facebook but these individuals should be easy to spot due to their poor work performance. If someone is truly passionate about what they do social media won't be much of a distraction. Why not let these people express their opinions online? Don't alienate your brand ambassadors

  2. Yes, that's true. Social Media have been treated as one of the reasons that employees might be distrated and low-efficient. Some companies just block the websites from their offices and forbid the use in workplace. Jacqueline,I'm with you. I think employers who let their employees use social media are smart. They are not only showing their trust on their people. Meanwhile, they are showing the confidence about their organizational culture.

  3. Great post, Jacqueline. Not allowing employees to use social media truly handicaps the company and puts them at a huge disadvantage to those who do allow it. In PR its essential that we use social media tools to grow our own agencies and build new ideas for our clients.