Social networks have the attention of businesses not just as a marketing tool but also as a liability. Lost productivity, security problems and reputation issues can lead companies to restrict employee usage of social networks despite their usefulness, according to the “Social Networks vs. Management?” report from employment services firm Manpower.
Worldwide, only one-fifth of the companies surveyed had a formal policy for employee use of external social networking sites. Firms in the Americas and Asia-Pacific were somewhat ahead on this front, but the majority of respondents in all regions had no policy in place. Among companies that did have a policy, 63% claimed it was effective in combating lost productivity.
While productivity may be a big concern for businesses, it’s not the sole one—reputation management is a potential problem associated with social media use. Despite stories about people being fired for committing social networking gaffes, just 4% of companies worldwide said their reputation had been hurt by employee use of social networks. That rate was doubled in the Americas but still represented only a tiny percentage of respondents.
Manpower warned that management should be willing to harness social media to increase productivity, rather than fearing it as a time waster.
“Corporate governance processes should not limit the creative and value-adding activities of employees,” the report says. “Rather, they should develop an atmosphere and promote a corporate culture that encourages such efforts.”
WorkPlace Media found that in May 2009, 78% of US at-work Internet users spent less than a half hour a day on social networking sites while at work, though 4% did admit to keeping the sites open all day.
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