As social media grows in the GCC and the Arab world, many are now accessing their multiple social media accounts via their laptops, cell phones and tablets. These social media users are continuously growing in the Middle East, as Facebook users in the Arab world alone stands at 45,194,452 users, while the number of estimated number of active Twitter users in the Arab region has hit 2,099,706 users (as of June, 2012).
Also, LinkedIn users in the Arab world currently stand at 4,294,484 users (as of June, 2012), up from 3,588,215 users at the beginning of the February (Reports from Dubai School of Government). As these numbers multiply by the array variety of social media platforms, such as blogs, facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Kik, Keek and many more, the adamant question is: Should we integrate the use of social media at work?
Many establishments up to this day have blocked social media websites at work, leaving their employees to access their personal social media from their mobile devices. Blocking, restricting or even monitoring the social media sites will not limit the employees from using their personal social media during work hours.
Companies can no longer ignore the use of social tools nor the ways the employees use them. These technologies can be used to create business value, share information, engage employees and create dialogue with customers and their prospects. Nowadays, social media can be the source of driving new ideas, tracking goals, contributing content, and getting acknowledgement from their customers, employees and prospects. Social networking sites can be used to drive innovation in their projects and help in the company’s growth in the future.
A recent incident in the UK has reported the sacking of 11 officials, amongst 116 DWP employees who have faced disciplinary action for blogging and social networking since January 2009, according to figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act. Commented on this incident, Steven George-Hilley, the director of technology at right-leaning think-tank Parliament Street, said: “In a social media age, it beggars belief that employees are being banned from using sites like Twitter and Facebook in the workplace. Instead of implementing draconian rules and penalties, public sector departments should encourage responsible use of social media, that empowers staff without putting the organization’s credibility at risk (source: Guardian)”.
So what is the solution? Ownership. Companies should accept the social media networking sites and accept the fact that they can benefit from these sites whilst employees are with them. They can do that by developing a social media policy and offer social media training to them. Addressing the employees’ social media use while aligning their usage with the company’s goals and culture. An informed workforce, well trained in social media can better engage customers and become an online ambassadors of the organization.
Clear communication regarding social media have to be addressed rather than developing a complex written policy, tossing it at employees and expecting them to apply it. Companies should seek the help of their marketing department in creating and implementing the corporate social media policy with the use of their HR department as gatekeepers of this policy.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to developing a corporate social media policy. The business model and company culture are key considerations. Social media policies showed that certain industries, such as law, construction, or financial services have different requirements concerning compliance, privacy, and safety, for example. Rather than mistrusting employees, companies should move forward to implement best practices and training for social media use. At present, guesswork rather than clarity is the norm for social policy in many organizations.
So what are your thoughts on this subject? Do you use social media at work? If so, what for? What can your company do to accommodate employees and their use of social media better?
Reem aims through her quarterly column to explore issues in society and discuss emerging new trends. Listen to other people’s thought and view their perspectives about the subject. Then raise questions and form unbiased conclusions about it.