Managing social media as both a business strategy and its inter-office usage is a balancing act that many employers have to consider. Should you embrace social media, and if so how do you control its usage? Social media has become so prevalent that it is considered a must by many for maintaining both business and personal relationships. In fact, the expectations from consumers is that companies should have a social media presence, and those that do are considered more engaging. A recent survey of 3,000 consumers by Bain and Company found that those who engage with a company over social media spend 20 to 40 percent more money with those companies than other customers, and have a deeper commitment to the company.

To this end, employers who choose to engage in social media have to manage it as both a business practice and a communications mechanism that the majority of their customers and employees are using daily. Consequently, social media should not be considered detrimental to business and productivity, but as a way of engaging customers and employees alike in your business. This isn’t to say that social media usage should run rampant at work. In fact, setting guidelines is one of the most important things employers can do if they intend to use social media for their business. Establishing clear and defined policies for employees who interact with customers on social networks, as well as use them for their personal communication should be spelled out clearly. To address the first, this means assigning key individuals within your business to manage specific networks and respond to consumers or customers, providing key guidelines on how to respond.

In terms of employees using social networks, it should be made clear what is considered acceptable to post when communicating on their own personal networks, and how much time is considered acceptable – or not – to spend online. Employers should also monitor their social media presence and be prepared to respond to comments immediately. Assign someone to monitor your social media accounts. This can be as simple as monitoring Facebook posts, Twitter feeds and setting up Google alerts. In this digital age, the expectation is that businesses should respond to customer queries in real-time. Staying on top of your social networks will help. This can also help in monitoring what your employees are saying about you online, and addressing any inappropriate posts as immediately as possible.

While some businesses may choose to block employee usage of social media at work all together, many rely on these networks to connect with their customers – and look to their employees to assist in their efforts. Whichever path you choose, establishing clear guidelines up front can help.

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