Social media networks such as Facebook have become a vital tool for many small businesses looking for cost-effective and efficient ways to promote themselves. For employers, it’s a way to connect with customers, business partners, and prospective employees alike, as well as foster workplace communication and collaboration. But it can also be a minefield. Not a day goes by where we do not hear a story of an employee getting in trouble, or worst yet fired over their use – or misuse – of Facebook. Balancing the need to maintain social networks for business relations in the office needs to be balanced with making sure your employees can both participate in and have a full understanding of your Facebook policies.

As with all company policies, Internet usage – and Facebook access specifically – should be defined and disclosed to all employees upfront. Employers should create a social media policy that clearly stipulates appropriate and inappropriate posts, such as divulging private company information on your wall. Facebook – and other social media usage policies should be defined and started clearly so that employees understand what is appropriate to share, or not to share. Employers should also consider installing monitoring programs, both electronically or otherwise, to help reduce Facebook abuse at work. An unfortunate statistic is that employees can spend anywhere from 1 to 2 hours online during a given workday.

If employees Internet usage is monitored, this can help reduce usage. Alternately, if employees usage is monitored, you as an employer need to post this information. And if an employee’s computer can be accessed by a system’s administrator, this information should also be divulged. While you can stipulate the amount of time an employee can spend on Facebook, just like you can stipulate how much time they can spend at lunch, it will be virtually impossible to prevent your employees from accessing their account, unless you block access completely. Setting guidelines is important here. Just like you set guidelines on the amount of time employees can take personal breaks, the same rules should apply for Facebook. No employer should assume – or mandate – that no time at work be spent on personal activities, but a clear understanding of what is acceptable can help. Using Facebook at work does have its benefits.

Your employees can become your brand ambassadors, promoting your products and workplace culture in a friendly and fun way. These benefits need to be managed with the potential risks; however, such as loss of productivity or divulging information that can shed a negative light on your company. Whichever avenue you choose, social networks are here to stay and managing how they are used will work to your advantage.

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