Social Media for Managers

by Theresa Truscott

In a nutshell

1. What is social media?

Social media is defined as the tools that allow groups to generate content and engage in peer-to-peer conversations and exchange of content (examples are YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and MySpace.) Many companies have their own internal software tools for sharing ideas, information and informal communication. These include

  • Chat facilities
  • Wikis (software allowing free-form discussions and exchange of ideas)
  • Simulation games
  • Internal blogs
  • Forums
  • Micro-blogs (the equivalent of Twitter).


2. The impact of social media on organisations

Almost all social networks have incorporated a measure of social media, allowing users to become stewards of interesting content, helpful links and images, plus personal stories or experiences of places, individuals and businesses. This has literally raised some companies from obscurity to celebrity and brought others from popular to infamous.

  • More and more, internet users have the expectation they will be able to interact with their favourite brands.
  • When someone says ‘I’ll tell all my friends’, they no longer mean only a few dozen people. The threat now means their dissatisfaction can reach thousands of people.
  • A well-worded ‘tweet’ or prominent post can accomplish the same as an extensively planned-out marketing strategy.
  • Social learning, or sharing knowledge, also has positive effects on business outcomes.


3. What you need to do about it

What does a manager need to do about social media?

  • Don’t be afraid of it!
  • Learn about it
  • Create a policy
  • Clarify expectations to staff.


4. Ban social media at work?

The last thing to do is issue a policy banning all social media at work.

  • Employees will feel empowered when they are ‘allowed in’ to the realm of policy that is expressed as partnership rather than domination.
  • No link has been demonstrated between improved employee performance and restrictions on social media.
  • More than 40 per cent of corporations in the UK have adopted in-house rules detailing when and where employees can use their phones and under what conditions they may accept calls.
  • Restricting access to certain times, sites or job roles can be a good way forward if you feel there is a real problem, but it is a fine balancing act that is not easy to get right.


5. Things people should do

Your social media policy should contain three ‘dos’:

  • Be responsible for what you write – anyone who holds the responsibility of being a representative of a company (which means each employee) should exercise accountability for their use of social media.
  • Consider the audience, remembering that your readers include current clients and potential clients, as well as current/past/future employees.
  • Exercise good judgment –your employees should understand that companies can and will monitor employee use of social media and social networking web sites, even if they are engaging in social networking or social media use away from the office.


6. Things people should not do

There are some general things to include in a social media policy about what should not be done while online:

  • Don’t share proprietary information
  • Don’t take security for granted
  • Don’t let it take over your life –at some point, ‘talking’ needs to turn into ‘signing the contract’
  • Don’t deal with grievances in public
  • Don’t make it personal (cyber-bullying).


7. Using social media for your networking

Social media can be used effectively by the manager as a networking tool.

  • First, make sure you are using social media for its intended purposes – to meet people!
  • Be personable, consistent and helpful. Authenticity and consistency is important across all accounts.
  • Blog postings, podcasts and the like offer a means to frame a conversation around specific issues or products and make sure that your position is heard and commented on.
  • You are also able to hear from others who are doing the same things, and learn why they do things differently or have different opinions.
  • If you are an infrequent and/or disorderly social media user, your bad habits may spread to your colleagues and/or subordinates. Maintain consistency and authenticity so that your actions reflect your words.


8. Social media policies

Help employees understand the purpose of a social media policy.

  • When creating yours, don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Look at other policies and tailor them to your needs.
  • To avoid any legal ramifications, it is imperative to define the organisational culture of the company, as well as the desired outcomes the organisation expects from the team when it comes to productivity, appropriate use and so on.
  • A social media policy needs to cover not only what will be considered ‘offensive material’, but also what sanctions are in place for infringement of the guidelines.


9. Ownership of social media contacts

The law in this area is still grey and enforcement is tricky for an employer, especially where there is a mix of personal and private contacts on one account, and where employees have private log-in details.

  • If a dispute does go to court, then being in a position to prove ownership of contacts created during the employee’s tenure will be crucial.
  • What can employers do to protect their client list?


10. Legal considerations

It is important to make everyone in the organisation is aware of the legal aspects of social media. There are many areas where an organisation can get into serious trouble over the use of social media. Some key areas to be aware of are

  • Employee monitoring – including online activity and geotagging
  • IP and breach of copyright
  • Cyber-bullying, defamation, and other unacceptable behaviour
  • Discrimination and use of social media in recruitment.


11. What to do in an emergency

As in every other branch of human activity, social media will inevitably throw up the occasional emergency. The golden rule is to keep calm…

  • If a member of staff has posted some inappropriate material, you may want to retrain them in appropriate use of social media, offer them coaching or counselling if necessary, take them through a disciplinary process, or dismiss them if they have brought the company into disrepute.
  • It can be hard to read negative comments and the fear of receiving these can put people off starting in social media, but with goodwill and courtesy, you may well be able to turn the situation around.


12. Social media tools for business

As social media tools are reaching new levels of sophistication, a new trend is emerging in the way businesses interact internally. Social tools are now being applied to enhance employee engagement, improve internal communication, promote team camaraderie, communicate on a global scale, and create internal touch points that were previously unavailable. Social media tools that businesses and organisations can use internally include:

  • SharePoint
  • Yammer
  • Digsby
  • Spark


13. Social media for learning

Social media is a powerful tool for learning. Some things to consider when using it effectively are to

  • Schedule training time on the technology separately and prior to the training on a designated topic
  • Make sure that your approaches include real opportunities for practice
  • Tools should not just be used to push content, but to encourage discussion and development among teams.


14. Social media for the organisation

Research shows that 79 per cent of firms are using at least one of several social media platforms and that proportion is rising. For a business, this can generate a high volume of prospective clients and create great rapport with real people reaching communities through word of mouth. Key influencers can and are doing as much as competitive marketing campaigns.

  • Brand intelligence is effectively advertising and demonstrating your knowledge of your brand, product or service.
  • Customer insight involves collecting research from your audience and creating your profile, an area which is often neglected
  • Community behaviour comes next and interaction with your audience is vital, but you must do this without appearing like spammers.


15. Organisation case studies

Great examples of social media policies from prominent companies include

  • SAGE Publishing
  • Logica
  • Schroders