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Your Employees Are Using Social Media at Work -- How to Make the Most of It 'Social media' is a term that makes many employers shudder. Here are 5 ways to turn it into a tool to help employees and your company as a whole.

By Heather R. Huhman Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Social media is in everyone's pocket nowadays. And this phenomenon can potentially lead to distractions in the workplace, a fear that has prompted many employer to institute policies to minimize social media use at work. But just how effective are these policies?

Related: Craft a Legal, Effective Employee Social Media Policy With These 5 Steps

Apparently not very: In a June 2016 survey from Pew Research Center, 77 percent of 2,003 American workers surveyed reported that, despite their employers' policies against social media use, they still used it anyway.

Given such resistence, maybe it's time to train employees to use social media in a productive manner. Here are some of those potential productive ways:

1. Implement social media breaks.

Breaks are vital to maintaining a high level of productivity. In fact, 57 percent of employers and 64 percent of employees surveyed by Staples this year said that taking adequate breaks was a key factor to their overall productivity.

By giving employees the chance to unplug from work mode, companies are starting to see a positive impact -- the June 2016 survey from Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of employees agreed that social media breaks helped them recharge at work.

Employees, then, should be encouraged to step away from their workstations and spend some time out of the office. If they like going on social media, breaks, enable them to stay connected on their profiles during the workday without those same social media hindering their attention to a task.

Breaks should be dedicated times employees can look forward to, without having to sneak glances at their newsfeeds and Snapchat messages in the middle of a project. Such multitasking hurts productivity and throws their concentration off. But, when employees know they will have time allocated for leisure time, they will be less prone to check every phone buzz.

2. Conduct research and seek advice.

The Pew Research Center survey from June also found that 56 percent of workers believed that using social media ultimately helped their job performance. After all, these platforms aren't solely for sharing kitten videos and inviting friends to Candy Crush.

In fact, employees can use social media to help with their daily tasks, such as researching specific questions or concerns. For example, marketing experts on Twitter tend to post articles on best practices. If employees are stuck on designing a new campaign, they can seek out some actionable advice.

They can use sites like Quora to see what the online community is discussing about a specific topic or a question. These types of Q&A sites are good for various perspectives on any subject.

Outlets like Periscope and Facebook offer live streaming video. Organizations may livestream informative talks and seminars, which employees can also tune into.

Related: The Jury Is Still Out on Texting for Professional Communication

3. Expand professional networks.

Social media can help connect professionals with colleagues in the same industry. As an employer, you can help them leverage LinkedIn's features to share ideas and meet new people. For example, provide a list of important groups or organizations they should join and follow.

Employees can share posts, comment on other people's posts, send direct messages to colleagues and even attend webinars for leading industry insights. Professional organizations provide a lot of great content that can benefit employees on all levels.

Your talent acquisition team can further benefit from employees expanding their professional networks on social media. The more connections employees make, the more options they have to help with recruiting through an employee-referral program.

4. Recruit new talent.

In the Global Recruiting Trends 2016 report from LinkedIn, 47 percent of the 3,894 hiring managers surveyed called social media the most effective employer branding tool. The various platforms there provide unique features that are perfect for spreading brand awareness and attracting top talent.

So, why not conduct seminars and training bootcamps to show employees how to use social media, to spread the positivity associated with your brand? This should all be a part of your employee-referral program.

Tools like StrongIntro streamline this process. StrongIntro trains staff on how to source their connections, then helps them submit referrals who are qualified, by using a simple interface.

5. Engage in team-building.

In its simplest fashion, social media connects coworkers on a personal level. They can communicate with one other after hours and create a strong friendship. Social media can also be used as a support system, enabling employees to send positive messages to someone, for example, who is out sick or experiencing a traumatic life event.

Additionally, social media can be helpful in developing the employer-employee relationship. Companies can use these public forums to recognize and celebrate an employee's performance and achievements, which is just as effective as making announcements at meetings.

Instead of sending still more internal emails to employees (which may get lost in an overflowing inbox), create a specific event page on Facebook to keep everyone informed about an upcoming meeting, seminar, office party or other work-related function. This means of communicating will be more direct and less likely to be overlooked.

Related: Are Small Businesses Spending Too Much Time on Social?

In sum, the term "social media" may make some managers shudder. However, it's a powerful tool that should be used to help employees with development of their careers and performance and to also guide their employers to better recruiting practices.

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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