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The Problem with Social Media in the Office

Set profiles to private.

May 27, 2009

There is some good news and bad news about workplace social media.

The good news, according to Deloitte, is that nearly one-third (30%) of executives said social networking is a part of their business and operations strategy.

Social Networking Activities of US Companies, April 2009 (% of respondents)

A smaller, but still significant, number reported leveraging the Web 2.0 tools to build their brand, communicate internally, recruit employees and engage the workforce.

However, 55% of executives admitted that their companies do not have an official policy for social networks—and 22% would like to use social nets, but don’t know how.

Now for the bad news: There can be some serious downsides to using social networks—which even enthusiastic users admit.

Nearly three-quarters of employees agreed that it’s easy to damage a company’s reputation on social media, including 24% who strongly agreed.

US Employees Who Believe Social Media Usage Can Damage a Company's Reputation, April 2009 (% of respondents)

Still, 53% of employees felt that their online profiles are none of their employers’ business. More than one-third never consider what their bosses, clients or colleagues think before posting.

That can lead to some iffy content and potentially harmful publicity.

“While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences, and observations to social networking sites is personal, a single act can create far-reaching ethical consequences for individuals as well as organizations,” said Sharon Allen of Deloitte. “Therefore it is important for executives to be mindful of the implications and to elevate the discussion about the risks associated with it to the highest levels of leadership.”

Some employees are doing just that: 61% have made significant adjustments to their social network pages to reflect their public nature—without the prompting of their superiors.

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