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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