Do you block access or encourage your employees to be socially online?

Employee Blogging
About 9,000 followers of Vodafone UK’s Twitter account saw this message: “VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo’s and is going after beaver”. Vodafone immediately deleted that message, but it was re-tweeted by followers and spread quickly all over the Net. To their credit, Vodafone quickly released an apology and replied individually to angry customers.

“An individual posted an obscene remark on the Vodafone UK Twitter account,” a spokesman for the company said, and also that the employee was suspended.

More than half of employers block access to social media, and whether this works against productivity drain is debatable. But employees access social networks from their mobile phones. In fact, in India, more people access Facebook from mobile phones than from PCs.

Now, if they get it right, employees on social networks can enhance their company’s reputation and help bring in business. Take the case of TATA Chemicals, which put up a Facebook page to promote their water filter (called Swach). Employees were given full access to social networks, and they were apparently proud enough of the product to start talking on the page. Soon, people from their network joined in with issues related to water and health in general. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of people following the page, but that’s not the main thing: it’s an engaged audience talking about and promoting the product.

Maybe this is an isolated case. But let’s look at the idea for a minute.

I think that if employees have a public voice, and if they can interact with the public, they’re more likely to help than harm. Sure, this is easier said than done. The best way to start might be to have a formal social policy in place. The policy should be regularly reviewed and communicated to employees. These basic guidelines and sample policy framework might help.

Allowing – or encouraging – employees to be socially online: Does it make sense? Will it catch on? If your company were to do it, would you anticipate nothing at all, something really good, or a big mess? I’d like to know what you’re thinking!

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