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Why workplaces shouldn’t ban social media

Social media is blurring the lines between work and home.  Whether you agree with it or not, it’s saturating our lives personally and professionally.

Statistics show social media is growing rapidly. Between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter there are almost 16 million users combined Australia-wide. And this continues to grow each day.

There are risks associated with social media and some employers are quick to ban it in the workplace as a means of trying to control these potential risks. However, two myths need to be dispelled about social media. Firstly, employers cannot control social media so they need to get out of this ‘regulation’ mindset. Secondly, banning social networks in the workplace does not consider the bigger picture of social media and outside work usage. It shows a lacking of understanding around the technology.

Social media has become part of the fabric of daily life and is something that needs to be managed, not banned. Employers need to get on the front foot and be proactive in educating their employees around usage and expectations. This is a solution that is better equipped to deal with the technology and usage of social media platforms.

There are many reasons not to ban social media in the workplace. Here are three:

1. Information Highway

Social media is full of information as part of the bigger picture that is the internet. Intelligence can be gleamed by networking and exploring in these platforms. It is critical that employers use this space and harness this information to increase business value, improve brand awareness and help support business goals. Having social media savvy employees who can tap into markets that may not be accessed offline can be channelled to the benefit of all.

2. Smartphones

Employers cannot permanently remove their employees’ iPhones. So any attempt to ban social media at work is ultimately pointless. Blocking it from PCs does nothing to stop access. If they have an iPhone or Blackberry they have the means to access any social media or Internet site any time they like, whenever they like. Obviously there are some jobs where concentration is crucial and having a phone would not be appropriate, however, this would not be the norm.

3. Educate and Empower

Educating employees around proper social media usage and management expectations is a collaborative approach that is more in tune with the 21st century workplace. Education can be used to empower employees to sell the company’s message. When employees are suitably educated, the tech savvy are able advocate on the company’s behalf and pursue corporate goals.

Social media plays an important role in many employees’ lives. Blocking it in the workplace is an ineffective and outdated means in a dynamic and evolving environment. Employer and employee communications are crucial in social media. Educating employees around management’s expectations minimises the risks. When the boundaries and guidelines are clear, employees can engage in the space for business and marketing goals. In the long term this benefits both the employer and the employee.

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Anna Cairo

Anna Cairo

Anna is a social media communications expert. She supports businesses to increase their online presence through social media. Additionally, she also educates businesses around the impacts social media creates in the workplace and how to minimise these risks. She is a writer, researcher and author writing for diverse audiences on a range of topics. Further, she conducts workshops, presentations and is regularly asked to speak to lawyers around social media risk. Anna was recently nominated for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards 2013. You can join Anna on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anna-Cairo-Consulting/285887488090944">Facebook</a> or visit <a href="http://www.annacairo.com">www.annacairo.com</a>.

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