Social media has become so prevalent that it’s rare to have an employee that doesn’t have an account on any service.  It’s also widespread across all age groups; in fact, a recent study found that Generation X spends 10% more time on social media each week than Millennials.  Generation X is now averaging 7 hours per week on social media, up from 5.5 hours only a year ago!

It’s surprising what people don’t realize about social media’s potential to damage career opportunities.  A recent study found that 70% of employers use social media to screen job candidates. And although only 24% of hiring managers are actively looking for inappropriate posts to disqualify a candidate, half of them have run into posts that were inappropriate enough to do so.  The top three most common types of disqualifying posts: provocative pictures, information about excessive drinking or drugs, and discriminatory comments on race, gender, or religion.

The odds are good that those social media users were already employed by someone – in fact, the employer’s name might even be listed in their profiles.  That leads to a second finding – it’s surprising what businesses don’t realize about social media’s potential to damage their reputation.  If your employees spend upwards of 300 hours a year on social media, it’s unlikely that they’re doing it without referencing their work lives at all.  They could be talking about how great their job is, or how terrible it is.  Worst case scenario, they may even be using client names and providing proprietary information in posts.

Do you have a policy on acceptable use of social media?  More importantly, do your employees know what your social media policy is?  If you have one, but only cover it during the employee onboarding, there’s a good chance that information is getting lost between the Holiday schedule overview and the 15 people new employees meet before lunchtime.

Of course, you can’t prohibit someone from using social media at all.  You also can’t put a blanket ban on discussing anything that happens at work.  Having a social media policy, however, and explaining that policy, may go a long way towards saving your business from some embarrassing situations.  It might also save an otherwise excellent employee from being fired because they didn’t understand the boundaries of online communication. Education and training are your best tools for preventing unfortunate incidents from occurring.

If you’re looking for a starting point, CAI, a Raleigh-based employers association, has an excellent sample social media policy, as does the Society for Human Resource Management on their website.

To learn about how WingSwept can help your company leverage technology for better business outcomes, call us at 919.779.0954 or email us at