It’s about time: How much time should staff spend on social media activities?

By Brett Owens

It’s likely that your employees spend a sizeable percentage of their time using social media. As work/life balance continues to blend into one homogenous string of activities, social media activity is happening in your workplace whether you realize it or not.
 
But isn’t social media just a big waste of time?
 
It can be, but lumping all social media activity into the same unproductive bucket is unfair, and also unwise. Social media can be an effective tool for many key business activities – including business development, client retention, and employee retention and recruitment.
 
Because platforms like Facebook often blend personal and business colleagues, it’s very challenging to set black and white rules when governing the use of social media.
 
Free reign on social media = Trust
 
At Chrometa, we take a mostly laissez faire approach to our employees’ use of social media, with no official policies or restriction on what employees are allowed to do. I know this thinking is counterintuitive to what many accounting and consulting firms believe, but I think this boils down to a control issue more than anything else. It’s sort of similar to being told as a child not to get into the cookie jar. If firms set up policies dictating certain actions, employees are more likely to violate these policies if they feel they can get away with it without being noticed.
 
Each of our employees is encouraged to set up and maintain a presence on “The Big 3” social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Their participation levels, on the other hand, are completely up to them. A couple of our employees really enjoy and benefit, both personally and professionally, from their time on Facebook and Twitter. Ironically, our chief technical officer generally dislikes social media and personally avoids it.
 
At the core of our free reign is trust. We trust that our employees are 100 percent devoted to the success of our company, mission, and brand. As a result, I have complete trust they will not represent us poorly; to do so would be like representing themselves poorly. This level of trust is only possible if an employee does completely self-identify with his or her job and firm.
 
How much time is too much time?
 
I personally have spent too much time on many occasions on the Big 3 and blogs, as well, without achieving what I’d consider a reasonable ROI on my time. Going forward, I know I need to more accurately gauge the amount of time I should spend on each medium.
 
It’s not completely fair and accurate when people proclaim, “Twitter is a complete waste of time” because they probably just don’t understand what it can do. Twitter can be a drain, but it also can be useful if used properly and marketed to your stakeholders. Like anything, if you spend too much time on Twitter, you can end up wasting a lot of time if you don’t use it wisely.
 
How-much-time-too-much-time is something everyone must figure out for themselves. I give our employees the leeway to decide how much time is too much. I know they honestly want to be productive and perform their roles to the best of their ability. Because I know this, I find it’s better if they figure out these types of limits and best practices themselves, instead of having them come as edicts from above.
 
It’s About Time is a series of articles devoted to practice management techniques that focus on efficiency and productivity.
 
About the Author:
Brett Owens is CEO and cofounder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, CA-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation, and improving personal productivity. Owens also is blogger and founder at CommodityBullMarket.com and ContraryInvesting.com, as well as a regular contributor to two leading financial media sites, SeekingAlpha.com and BeforeItsNews.com.
 
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