Do you block access to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other "inappropriate" social media? Should you?

I am leading with my chin here. I am running in advance of a great RMIA event on 19 May where there will be a panel of social media experts addressing this topic. So here are my thoughts. However, if this grabs your interest, come and listen to three of Australia's leading experts on the 19th.

Social Trends - The workplace is continuously evolving. You may have seen for yourself a new, younger CEO allowing the pent up desire for changes in workplace culture to evolve where the older predecessor did not. In my view there is no doubt social media is a key element of the immediate future of our workplaces. The question is, what should it look like for your organisation?

Risks of allowing access - A few of the most obvious risks include impact on productivity and inappropriate workplace behaviour such as bullying and harassment and damage to corporate reputation. Other risks that may be present include IT security risks as social media sites are havens for the mischievous. Even so, most of these risks are manageable. Time wasting and inappropriate workplace behaviour can occur on Facebook using an employee's smart phone while sitting at their desk as easily as using the organisation provided desktop. IT security can be addressed at some expense. Perhaps it is better to bear some of these risks and actively manage them through access policies and training?

Risks of denying access - If you deny access you are stating that social media does not have a role in the workplace. While this might be true for some organisations where the distraction of social media can be a safety concern, there are many organisations, from leading technology companies to media to the police, using these tools right now. The risk is then two-fold. 1) You may be missing out on much needed talent as many of the younger generation may steer clear of you. 2) You may be missing out on the opportunity to manage parts of your business in a better way because you have not allowed your workforce to explore how social media tools can benefit the organisation.

Opportunities - Managed well, I suggest that even the most conservative organisation can benefit from social media access within the workplace. Social media can be used amongst the workforce to build and foster relationships, share knowledge and mould organisational culture. Twitter can be more effective than SMS for keeping staff and other stakeholders informed during rapidly evolving events. For SMS your staff and customers have to keep you updated regarding a change of number, with Twitter, anyone can follow you.

So, "lead" or "follow", either way I believe most businesses will need to be there sooner than many of us think.

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