December 7, 2010

Does your workplace policy cover social media?

Time spent in workplace on social media
Percentage of employees at small and large companies using some social tools.

New report urges companies to update Acceptable Use Policies

JD LasicaToday an online security firm released a whitepaper analyzing the impact that social media sites are having on businesses today and urging that companies update their acceptable use policies to address how employees are using social media in the workplace.

The report, from M86 Security, aptly notes that many companies are struggling with adopting procedures as they relate to the use of social media outlets during business hours and while on the business network.

Companies that are evolving into social companies — businesses interested in participating in a genuine conversation with their customers — are those that will succeed in the new marketplace. Already, hundreds of organizations are using social media platforms as part of their company communication channels, issuing company news on Twitter or maintaining a company profile on Facebook, for example. And many, as the M86 Security report details, have not yet come to grips with how to address social media.

My colleague, the consultant Shel Holtz, has repeatedly scolded corporations for their wrongheaded decision to block sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube from inside the company firewall. See the chart at top, taken from the report, for a snapshot at the growing use of social media by rank-and-file corporate America.

The report backs our view that limiting access to social sites is the wrong approach for companies that want to thrive in the era of Enterprise 2.0:

Social media adoption is growing faster than anticipated. It is becoming the new de facto way of staying in touch with personal contacts, and increasingly, to network with professional contacts. Users spend more time every day, even at the workplace, communicating through these new sites — typically with very little control or security enforcement. This is why organizations need to address social media activities in their AUPs. Simply blocking all access will alienate users and increasingly limit their work-related activities.

Here at, we’ve worked with corporate clients to devise Social Media Policies that fit within the framework of their Acceptable Use Policies. It should be instructive that one never hears a staffer refer to an “AUP.” But they do know social media. We start not from the legal offices or corporate boardroom, but from a different place — employees’ cubicles or workstations — while understanding how the new connected, always-on, mobile workforce can tap into their social networks not to waste time but to get work done.

It’s important to specify what to do, and how to do it, rather than simply issue a laundry list of rules

When we first meet with senior management, we almost always have to gently instruct them: It’s important to specify what to do, and how to do it, rather than simply issue a laundry list of rules, which the staffer will skirt as easily as pulling an Android out of her pocket.

IT decision makers, HR managers and corporate managers and executives can download the free seven-page report Is Your Acceptable Use Policy Social Media-proof? after a quick registration.

Then come to us to devise a Social Media Policy your employees will actually use instead of stashing in the bottom drawer. Here’s a look at businesses’ publicly published Social Media Policies that we compiled — the best directory on the Web.

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JD Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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One thought on “Does your workplace policy cover social media?

  1. If a job doesn't allow me to take a short break on facebook or twitter through out the day, i'd very very quickly find a better company to work for. I guess its the major benefit to working in the bay area, there are so many tech jobs you don't have to put up with this kinda crap.