Social Media: The Ultimate Loss of Control

My most popular rants these days all center around Social Meida in the
workplace. If you’re a company who is blocking websites at work and
banning employees from being proactive on the web, you’re probably the
target of my rage. If you’re doing either of these things you are
desperately grasping to keep complete control in a way that’s just not
possible. Face it. The internet is here and your employees are on it.
It’s your choice to either be one of the companies who uses this to your
advantage or one of the companies who wastes time fighting a losing
battle to have complete control.

Social-media-ban  Quick Story: A friend of mine had spent years building his reputation as
an industry expert in his field. Because of his hard work and
dedication he’d been asked to write on several industry blogs. Each of
his blogs were about general topics in his field, his theories on those
topics, and advice for others interested in the same things. He never
mentioned his company or issues they were facing, competitors, or
anything at all related to work that he was doing at his company. Yet in
his bio he mentioned his title and where he worked. The more he wrote
the more followers he had and the more followers he had the more of a
buzz he created as being an industry expert. Yet every time he posted he
received a letter from his the Corporate Communications team at his
company letting him know it was inappropriate for him to use the
company’s name in his bio and that he was not allowed to write on behalf
of the company.

Because they were too foolish to realize that when the outside world
sees your employees as industry leaders they also see your company as
cutting edge, they tried to control what was being put out there.
Because he was a smart, driven, motivated employee he took the hint and
found another job. His former company regained control and in the
process lost an employee. But did they win?

Here’s my point: Embrace the internet because it’s not going away. Focus
on minimizing the stupid things your employees can do on the web that
could hurt your company and embrace the smart things they’re doing. It’s
not about control, it’s about knowing how to guide employees in the
right direction. Tell them what’s okay and what isn’t. Set clear
guidelines about your expectations.

The web is a scary place for companies – especially when our employees
have free reign. I get it, but the best companies are pushing forward
and figuring out ways to embrace it. Take a look at this oldie but goody
on Zappo’s.

How do you feel about embracing your employees use of social media?

FOT Background Check

Marisa Keegan
Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.


  1. Karla Porter says:

    The “lockdown” is another symptom of the feudal oppressive system of most employment situations. Companies that recognize the value of an entrepreneurial employment model and promote their employer/corporate brand via employee ambassadors will enjoy higher rates of employee loyalty and satisfaction, creativity and performance.

  2. Drew Hawkins says:

    Amen. (That’s all I really have to say)

  3. Embrace it unconditionally as long as personal responsibility is part of that group hug.

  4. Adam Wald says:

    What an oddly socialist point of view!? While there is an argument to be made for a company to “embrace” the Web and social networks/networking, this issue has been unfairly framed to read “employer v. employee.” Which sets up an unnecessary opposition. (As if these two parties don’t share a common interest?)
    No, the restriction of unbridled Internet use at work has more to do with productivity and, well, theft. And if the “feudal oppressive system of most employment situations” is more than one can bear, then the employee should quit her job, generate an idea, draft a business plan, raise capital, incorporate, and implement. This person would then be free to be her own serf.

  5. Adam Wald says:

    Especially if the Internet use is not work related!

  6. Carolyn says:

    I recently created and comunicated a social media policy at my work and while it states the company “recognizes the importance of the Internet in shaping public thinking about our company…” we also clarify that “the PERSONAL use of any social media including Twitter, Facebook, wikis, blogs, etc., must not interfere with working time.”
    I completely agree with you, when you say “It’s not about control, it’s about knowing how to guide employees in the right direction.” Set clear expectations and communicate them. People get it, and the vast majority don’t want to voluntarily put their jobs in jeopardy by posting their company’s confidential and proprietary information on their FB page.

  7. kellybriefworld says:

    As a young employee I can’t imagine working long hours without the use of social media. On the other hand, I completely understand why my boss would block me from seeing what’s new with my friends on facebook all the time is unproductive. The problem with blocking these applications is that we are seeing more and more benefits to social media use. That’s why I believe some wasteful parts of social media should be blocked and some parts of social media should be accessible. I found a whitepaper written by Palo Alto Networks, and they have a new software that does exactly this. Here’s a link to it: Enjoy!

  8. Renee says:

    I do find it interesting that a company would not want me not use FB, Twitter, Wikis and blogs during “work time” but will certainly not shut off my iphone so that I may answer e-mails anytime, anywhere. For those organizations that try and control when and where an employee is working is missing the boat. Workshifting is alive and well and for those who believe productivity only takes place during working hours is way behind.
    BTW – I am working right now – doing research on how to build Learning platforms for the organization that can be accessed – you guessed it – anytime, anywhere.

  9. Hope Hall says:

    OMG…”privacy” has been the issue all along. What happens in a vacuum? Nada. What happens when you have lots to say and can’t because your partner works for an organization that “has” all the opinions for you?…I have lived in the shadow of “our corporate indentity” for more than 25 years. We got the house, the picket fence, the 2 kids and 2 dogs. I never so much as wrote a letter to the editor. And, for lotsa reasons on both sides — he has been cast aside by an alphabet network engineering department. I renamed his boss Dr. Deathcamp and he is. One of the big complaints? My hubby was not “C” shaped and drooling at the Blackberry 24/7. His facebook is my face, our kid’s faces and gee sorry he has a life…just because you are a 24-hour network does not mean you get him 24- hours a day. And, you get his corporate persona, nothing more nothing less. Get a life people and I mean it. The soon to be shunned ex-employee keeps making reference to “shown the door like Fred Flintstone’s cat” and I feel “just like trash and in an offbrand thin trash bag”. He was offered not only an out package–he was asked do you really want a goodbye party? So, we have — one pardon me “gag” order set of paperwork for him. No saying, no suing. We have some lovely time for him to look for his next assignment, they hope Kuwait. And, you have one seething, angry wife that has a year, to write, wait and Day 366, pull the trigger on some really good cable TV industry dirt. I just hope they stay in business. I hope a lot of things…all printable in 365 days or so; many of which involve a middle finger salute. Angry much? Yes, I am. Stay tuned.

  10. Kelly says:

    the future of business is in social media and more frequently larger companies are beginning to understand this. As an IT consultant I am fully aware that IT management is struggling with whether social media is productive or obstructive for companies and their employees. Software is being developed and policy and restrictions are being decided everyday by IT managers but Palo Alto has recently written 3 insightful and educational white papers regarding the future of these enterprise 2.0 applications Twitter , sharepoint and facebook it out

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