Social networking: a blessing or a curse?

By: Mark Hook

Date: 16 September 2009

Many employers realise that Internet usage is important in the work place. I use the Internet every day to carry out my work, often jumping from Twitter to Ecademy to Facebook. These sites can be a double-edged sword for companies though. While they can be effective for business, they are also open to abuse by employees wasting company time by accessing them throughout the day for non-work activities. There can also be legal risks to allowing employees access to social networking platforms. Employees representing a company may post discriminatory or offensive material that may reflect the business in a bad light or lead to a claim. This has been the case with Currys and PC World, who may face legal ramifications after staff posted abuse at their customers via social networking site Facebook. Some organisations such as Portsmouth City Council, have taken action by banning their employees from using social networks. The council previously allowed their 4,500 employees to access Facebook during lunch breaks and non-work hours. Small firms in particular are faced with some difficult questions:

  • How can they keep track of internet use by their employees?
  • Should they restrict their employee's use of social media sites even though they can add so much to the business when used effectively?
  • Should they allow employees to use the internet at work for personal use?

These are tough questions for a business to answer, but what a firm should do in any instance is ensure they have a clear IT policy in place. This will help you review how online social networking is used in your business and where the main issues (legal or otherwise) may arise. An effective policy will help you to manage risks without missing out on the opportunities social networking can present.

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