Time has come for ALL companies to put a social media policy in place


In my previous post, I concluded that the SABC does not have a social media policy in place. My conclusion is based on the discussion between Ashraf Garda of SAFM and Anele Mdoda of 5FM at the time – both radio stations under the SABC, where there was no clarity regarding what was going to happen to the latter broadcaster’s Twitter followers when she moved to 94.7, an independent radio station.

2 years ago, a social media policy was still an optional item on South African and many other companies’ to-be-considered list. However, this is no more the case. The following facts and stats paint a clear picture:

  • There are 7 million Internet users in South Africa. 64% of these netizens access the Internet at work.
  • 1 in 10 South Africans is on Facebook. Of these registered accounts, about 70% are active.
  • 15 minutes a day, or 7 hrs a month, is spent on Facebook.  The Guardian is the source of the graph below.

Without a doubt, social networking is now firmly interwoven with many of our everyday lives.

Simple Truth about Social Networking

My key takeout from the brief analysis above is that there is a substantial pool of employees who are accessing social media during working hours. Some companies have attempted to deal with this activity, which is deemed to be a waste of productive time, by putting a total ban on use of company-owned computers for accessing social networks. However, World Wide Worx’s 2011 research reveals that 6 million South Africans access the Internet on their mobiles anyway. With increasing penetration of smartphones and noticeable downward pressure on the cost of mobile broadband, the need to access social networks using company computers is diminishing. Let me squeeze in the last stat for measure: 1 in 4 people access Facebook using a mobile device, and this number is increasing.

The long and short of it is that companies cannot win the battle to stop access of social networking at work, this is like a river that has burst its banks. I hear you ask why this is important to your company. The simple answer is that there is a blurring line between employees’ personal and business lives, and this heightens the risk that companies’ private and confidential information can be shared on social networks. Take an example of Howard Schultz’s 2007 internal email that found its way to the public, as shown by the except from Brand Autopsy:

Internal Email: Commoditization of Starbucks Experience

Internal Email

It has now become a business imperative for companies to regulate how and when social networking activity takes place during working hours. The best way to address it is through a comprehensive social media policy.

In a follow-up post, I shall be looking at key elements of a social media policy.

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  • Nuffdotty – where thoughts on the subject of education, mostly relating to South Africa, are shared
  • Diski4Life – a blog about development of South African soccer post World Cup 2010

4 thoughts on “Time has come for ALL companies to put a social media policy in place

  1. Social media policies will be very tricky. Things though. I mean if a person is using their own personal device then what right (outside of agreements prohibiting sharing intellectual property) would a company have of enforcing this rule? Of course there are companies like Apple with strict social media rules (and a clear case for those rules) but it gets tricky when we move towards businesses with less of a patentable business model/product mix. I wish the default for this could be common sense but in a world where companies biggest fear are their own employees (which is an interesting analogy with the biggest threat to most nations security being internal), I only see increasingly draconian and short-sighted policies and since a lot of people in SA are govt employed, if/when POSIB becomes law then a lot of folk are going to jail

    • I agree @Jeff that there is a fine line. However, there are best cases available already. Companies must take the time to research this before they waste time on reinventing the wheel, or getting it wrong.

  2. If looked at it from a cynical view, it will seem rather hopeless to try and enforce social networking policies on your employees. Again this boils down to the workplace culture and the type of business. I’m directly in an industry where I make money from these social networks, so these followers, likes, connections are the company’s (Employee contracts and handbooks). No employee of ours has their entire control on our accounts, between 9 and 5 they admin our pages and clients and once that hits, they shouldn’t be doing company related social networking interaction. Our office culture is far from draconian, the opposite matter of fact, its all about drawing the lines and employees and employers knowing that access or interaction between certain times, its a thin line, but if lines are drawn and people can differentiate their personal accounts from work, it would work out so much better. Just because they online doesn’t exempt it from real world business etiquette. If anyone wants more advice on social networks, their management, engagement and reporting they can contact me at mutlanengk@purpleonlinemedia.com and I’d be glad to clear up misconceptions or advice willingly.

    Another awesome topic Bra Willy

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