CEO Sundays: Is Social Media Killing Your Startup Company Culture?

By March 3, 2013

Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon

Social media is everywhere. We can now Snapchat, Instagram, and live tweet every moment of our lives. In fact, in 2012, social media networks enjoyed 1.266 billion unique visitors. But is all that social sharing really good for the workplace?

In a startup environment, it’s a good bet you’ll know most of your coworkers pretty well. Startups can often mean long hours together burning the midnight oil to make sure your product or service makes it to market and makes a big impression. You need to hire the best people and snap them up before your competition.

This certainly explains why more companies are embracing social media and new technology as early as the recruiting process. In 2012, 92 percent of employers used social media to source candidates and six of out ten companies used video interviewing technology to connect with talented job seekers. Startups are often on the frontline of these cost-cutting, time-saving methods because time and money are the two things startups need the most.

But is all this social media madness actually making your startup’s company culture worse?

Under Pressure
You open your Facebook and see something you weren’t really expecting: a friend request from a coworker. This can open up a whole can of worms, especially if you’re trying to separate your work and personal life. According to a recent worldwide survey from AVG, more than a quarter of all workers felt pressured into accepting a friend request from a coworker. This can blur the lines between personal boundaries and workplace professionalism.

Goodbye Privacy
Is privacy a thing of the past? Even though states are implementing laws to stop employers from requesting social media passwords from interested job seekers, privacy is still a huge concern. A whopping 64 percent of American workers feel social media is eroding workplace privacy.

While once upon a time you could separate your business life from your personal business, now it’s harder than ever before. This means what an employee posts on a social media channel can have a negative effect on your startup’s company culture. You want to develop a culture at your startup where great candidates are excited to show up for work, not a place where they feel like big brother is always watching.

Hello Office Bullies
An unintended side effect from all this social media togetherness is workers are getting more catty than ever before. Just like locking a bunch of teenagers into a high school building can result in some bratty behavior, being constantly connected through social channels can bring out the worst in employees.

Indeed, 15 percent of U.S. workers admitted to being bullied by coworkers online via social media. A further 10 percent admitted they were embarrassed by photos or video taken at work and uploaded to the web. There’s nothing likely to kill your company culture faster than a few office Mean Girls (or guys) using social media as a weapon.

What’s the Solution?
While most startups enjoy a laid-back culture, when it comes to social media, it might be time to implement an actual concrete policy. Make sure this social media policy will work in your specific company and be embraced by your employees.

Social media office policies are not one-size-fits-all, so make sure you think critically about your existing company culture before implementing a plan. You’ll want measures in place to deal with uncomfortable by-products of the new socially connected world, like workplace bullies.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when developing your company’s social solution:

  • How much do you want to limit social media usage in the workplace?
  • How social is your workforce online? Will curtailing social media usage lead to hurt feelings instead of a productivity boost?
  • How can you clearly communicate what is and isn’t appropriate for employees to post on social media?
  • What are the repercussions for a worker who uses social media to bully someone else on the team?
  • How do you make sure these rules are upheld?

The answers to these questions should help you develop a well-considered and comprehensive social media plan for your company. Once you do, the most important thing is to make sure all employees understand the guidelines clearly so there is no confusion down the line. Perhaps some training or a meeting to go over the guidelines will be required.

Social media can be a great tool for getting your startup’s message out into the universe, recruiting the great candidates you need, and even establishing a fun company culture. But social media can have a dark side, so it’s important your company establish guidelines early so employees understand the rules.