Tips for Employers on Managing Employees’ Use of Social Media

Jun 17, 2013

New book encourages employers to embrace social media

CHICAGO, June 17, 2013 — Most employers (77 percent) recruit job candidates via social networking websites, but many employers struggle daily with how to manage their organizations and employees online.

Just because social media engagement can be a scary concept doesn’t mean it should be outlawed, according to digital communications expert Aliah D. Wright, author of the new SHRM-published book, A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites. Banning it just doesn’t work. Managing it with policy does.

“Too many companies, whether from fear, confusion, or a stubborn inability to embrace change, are continuing to ban employee use of what has essentially become our new telephone,” said Aliah Wright, SHRM journalist and author.

In A Necessary Evil, released today at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2013 Annual Conference and Exposition, Wright, an award-winning journalist, unveils the best management practices for the rapidly evolving workplace reality of social media.

She provides business leaders, HR professionals and managers several tips designed to help employees use such sites while balancing productivity. She also discusses how policies can help.

Following are some tips for managing employees who access Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites:

1) Familiarize yourself with the social media networks your employees are using. Are they using Facebook? Instagram? Viddy? Quora? Google+? Pinterest? Twitter? GetGlue? LinkedIn? Yammer? Don’t know? Ask them.

2) Encourage your employees to use social media —responsibly. Employees are legally allowed to discuss their jobs on social media. Help them build their brands (while enhancing your firm’s image) through their very own blogs and contributions to Twitter chats, LinkedIn and myriad other online forums.

3) Give employees guidelines for appropriate social media use and behavior. Provide guidance and treat employees like responsible adults who do the jobs you hire them to do. Remind them that nothing they delete from a social networking site ever really disappears. It lives on the site’s servers and can be subpoenaed if necessary—just like people.

4) Make the case for external social media engagement in your firm by showing the strategic value of being in the same social spaces as your clients, peers and colleagues. Having a social media strategy that applies to the entire company is critical. It ensures that the commitment, energy and time invested in social media activities have been worth it. Recognize, too, that if you are not in the space — your competitors are — leaving your firm at a possible disadvantage.

5) Be mindful of friending subordinates and colleagues on social networking sites—especially if you are managing their performance. Remember: people use social media in different ways and for different reasons. Some people adjust privacy settings regularly. Others do not. As an employer, you may encounter things you are not legally supposed to see.

6) Don’t just exist on social media; be engaged. Be attentive. Be honest. Be transparent and apologetic when necessary. Provide feedback whenever possible. Most of all, be present. Investing the energy, talent, and resources required to maintain your corporate presence within the social media sites you choose to inhabit will be beneficial over time.

7) Institute a policy on social media engagement. Outline parameters, and decide who the stakeholders will be. HR? Public relations? Marketing? Analyze the use and adoption of your network, and discuss both offline.

“Good companies pay attention to the social networking sites that their customers and employees inhabit,” Wright said. “They watch their behaviors and listen to their concerns. They apologize when their companies make mistakes and they are transparent and honest. And they engage their audiences and employees to foster growth, increase brand awareness and tap their collective knowledge to improve their bottom lines.”

Wright, an editor and manager for SHRM Online, is a subject matter expert on HR technology, social media, and digital communication trends. A former entertainment editor at Gannett News Service at USA TODAY and a political correspondent for The Associated Press, she resides in Fairfax, Va. Her Twitter handle is @1SHRMScribe.

Wright will be signing books in the SHRMStore at SHRM’s Annual Conference in McCormick Place at 3:30 p.m. on June 17. For more information, visit the book section of at Follow SHRM Book Publishing on Twitter @SHRMBooks.

Media: For a review copy of the book or an interview with the author, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260, 703-862-5192 or Julie Malveaux at, 703-535-6273.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at Follow us on Twitter at: @SHRMPress and @SHRM_Research.


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