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How to manage social media in the workplace

The popularity of social networking sites continues to grow in the UK, but their impact in the workplace has thrown up some interesting issues for employers.

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Millions of people in the UK are registered with social networking sites, which enable them to conduct their private lives online and many small firms are benefiting enormously from using social media to get the word out to potential customers.

However, the impact of the social networking sites in the workplace throws up some interesting issues for employers around the misuse of their IT systems. In this article, we take a look as some of things you may want to consider if you are concerned that your employees are spending too much of their working day networking online.

If you are an employer who is concerned about social networking being inappropriate use of your company's time, you are within your rights to discourage employees from using your computer equipment and internet connections for personal use. This applies to social networking or any other use of online facilities.

However, rather than discouraging its use entirely, you may want to take advantage of the benefits that social media presents to small businesses, such as increased awareness and communication with new and existing customers. In which case, a clear strategy needs to be put into place.

Creating an IT and social networking policy

So that both you and your employees know what is expected of them, you could create an IT policy which stipulates what kind of use of social networking is allowed within working hours.

Employers should draft a policy which deals with the degree to which they are happy for employees to use online networking for either their personal or professional use. Many employers are happy for this use to be confined to lunch or other breaks. Other employers might allow blocks of time during the day to be spent on any important online activity.

Whilst employers cannot insist that employees stop using social networking services, it is reasonable to impose limits on personal use at work, particularly if an employee's conduct online causes some detriment to the organisation. This can take the form of derogatory comments, which can easily be attributed to or linked to the employer.

Employers can of course monitor all use of computer equipment that happens during the working day including use of the internet, provided that employers inform staff in advance what is to be monitored.

Using social media positively

We believe that social media provides a unique and cost-effective opportunity for small businesses and their employers to connect with and learn from other businesses and professionals, and that this is something to be encouraged and managed positively in the workplace.

This involves finding the right social media channel for your business, deciding who will manage your social media presence internally and letting all employees know how they can contribute positively to your company via social media.

You can read more on how to get started with social media in our top tips to make social media work for your business. If you are a member of the Forum and would like to speak to one of our advisers about managing employment and HR issues, call us now on 0845 130 1722.