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Should Companies Restrict Employees Use of Facebook, Twitter?

Gannett Restricting Employees from Social Network Use?

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Update: The original title of this article was "USA Today Publisher Restricting Employees from Using Social Networks?" USA Today called WebProNews requesting a change because it made it look like USA Today itself was discouraging social media use, which is apparently not the case.

"I can’t speak for the posting on Gannett Blog, but I can say that we at USA TODAY have been working extensively on our social networking efforts," says USA Today Communications Manager Alexandra Nicholson. "USA TODAY was the first national newspaper to offer reader comments, and we continue to expand our community tools by allowing readers to communicate with each other directly, add ‘friends’ through USATODAY.com and through social networking tools like Facebook Connect. Additionally USA TODAY has recently launched a series of moderated communities targeted specifically to our readers, this includes a recent MMA community launch.

Alexandra says that USA Today sees social networking as "a growing effort" on their part and one that they’re "taking on enthusiastically."

Incidentally, Alexandra found our article while doing routine "Twitter surveillance."

Original Article: The controversy never ends when it comes to newspapers and online news. It’s amazing how many debates there really are within this industry.

You’ve got the bloggers vs journalists debate, the fair use debate, and the should social media be used as a source debate to name a few. That last one is apparently even an internal debate within some news organizations.

Valleywag is pointing to a post from a blog (unofficial) about Gannett, publisher of USA Today. The post shares a memo from an editor with the company that is restricting access by employees to social networks. This example is not really about the legitimacy of social networks as credible sources. It’s more about social media in the workplace. The memo says:

It has come to my attention that some staff members are spending a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites during work hours. Also, some staff members apparently are spending work time on Fantasy baseball research and other personal recreation activities.

This is not appropriate. It is not part of the job. Occasionally it will be necessary for staff members to visit these sites for work purposes, but please reserve social networking and recreational pursuits for your private time.

Is the editor wrong? Probably not entirely. Unless employees are using fantasy baseball research for actual stories, there is probably some misuse going on. But is restricting access to social networks the way to go?

News breaks on Twitter all the time. How would a writer get to it without spending some time on Twitter (or using some kind of Twitter app)? Then there is the fact that social networks are a way to contact potential leads and sources. They’re often easier to get through to people than by phone or email.

"As one reporter put it, ‘Facebook is a modern day Rolodex,’" says VW’s Ryan Tate. "Exactly, and if those infernal tele-phones had never been given out like candy to individual reporters, maybe newspapers would be in better shape today!"

USA Today does have a Twitter account, but seems to be primarily following other USAToday/Gannett accounts. twitter.com/gannett on the other hand has not been updated once, but is being held on to by some guy named Mike Pratt who loves the outdoors:

Gannet Account on Twitter

So where do you stand on this debate? Do social networks have a place in the newsroom, or do the negatives outweigh the positives? How about in other workplace environments? Tell us what you think.

Should Companies Restrict Employees Use of Facebook, Twitter?
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  • http://www.firmalatter.dk/latterkurser-og-workshops/latterkursus.htm Ejvind

    For security reasons it may very well be necessary to restrict internet browsing, but unfortunately you have to have someone deciding on what kind of safety measures are to be taken. It is a most delicate and difficult maneuver.

    However, we cannot have everyone – hackers, spammers and their likes to gain easy access to employees and the company networks.

    Could someone please make sure that we can always find the culprit?

  • http://www.basementsystems.com Basement Waterproofer

    Here’s the litmus test — if you have to click away when the boss comes…

    PS:
    Concrete Hurricane Proof Construction – Get rid of her as fast as possible – sprint to her office. Threats won’t change someone’s work ethic. There are a lot of good people looking for work.

  • Guest

    This looks strangely like the debate that was had 15 years ago on whether to give employees access to the Internet and/or e-mail. Resist and restrict, but eventually, everyone will have access, just like we did 15 years ago.

  • http://www.dogseizures.net Sam@dogseizures.net

    I doubt if this move will gain positive results unless done in a technical way. This is only possible if the company’s IT will set limitation on internet access in their computers. In this case, employees are forced to work all day.

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  • http://www.thepleasuresallmine.com Guest

    “Twiiter while you work”

  • http://www.jphirecentre.co.uk Plant Hire

    “Let’s Twit again like we did last summer, lets Twit again like we did last year”

  • Marcie Casas

    I believe that companies should let employees have access to social media networks at work. I argue my point here: http://biturl.cc/ZN

    For companies that have their employees in a social media network lockdown, I believe it’s an issue of control. Some fear negative comments and loss of messaging. But by not engaging, they’ve already lost control.

    -Marcie

    @marciecasas
    www.gdc-co.com/blog

  • http://www.americanbasementsolutions.com Wet Basement

    You can’t allow an employee to use social media throughout the work day because it can be distracting. I agree that during their work hour, they can do whatever they want, but as a practice, is it worth monitoring when they use facebook and twitter. I say ban it.

  • Jonathan

    Why do we even need the Internet? Over the last 200 years our society has lived without and prospered. This instant gratification and need to be connected all the time is driving the small American business out of business. Shifting local business away because the Internet allows the mighty to undercut another business from a 1,000 miles away is taking the local money away from the local community. The impersonal contact using the Internet seems to be an oxymoron with the the term “Social Network”. If a business wants to block any Internet application it is their given right to do so. Stop whining and start your own business and then you will understand the liabilities of using the Twitter and Facebook.

  • Techie24Chick

    I agree with Sam@dogseizures.net, restricting access during work hours can only be done if internet access is restricted. Additionally, I do not think companies should dictate if and how an employee uses social networks but employees should have enough self respect to do the right thing during work hours.

  • Guest

    I disagree because i dont think your job should be telling you what to do. You should keep your personal life and job life seperate from each other. One shouldnt get involved with the other.

  • Guest

    Your personal life shouldnt get invloved with your job life. Your job shouldnt tell you if you can have a facebook or twiter. Thats your personal life and the people at your job shouldnt get involved. Also you shouldnt get your problems from your personal life into your work environment because thats when the problems start. Keep them seperate.