When it comes to social media at work, it’s easy to get baffled. From banning employee access, to communicating out of work and understanding how to manage you channels – you need expert advice.

Katy Howell, CEO of Immediate Future is a specialist in social media who works with brands like Baileys, IBM, HSBC, Sony and BT. We put to her the pressing questions on social in the workplace from a HR perspective.

Employers and HR professionals may be unsure whether to allow use of social media at work. What are the potential risks, and the potential benefits to the company of allowing access during the working day?

In truth employees WILL be using social media at work whether employers want them to or not. After all, who doesn’t own a smart phone these days? There are risks – predominantly those that tend towards confidentiality or those more scary stories around HR issues.

So if you can’t control it, what do you do? You educate. Develop a policy and then enable your staff. Help them understand the dangers and the value of social media. And if you are smart you will have a powerfully connected network of employees prepared to advocate your brand.

Do you believe that social media could replace other platforms as a way to communicate internally, and what are the considerations here?

It doesn’t have to be a case of replace. There is no either or. However, using social as part of your internal communications (whether public such as Twitter, or private such as ‘Facebook at Work) is about meeting your employees where they like to be. Making company communication peer chatter and seamless with the everyday as possible.

But this is also no easy task. Creating a community on social (whether internal or marketing led) takes time, resource, smarts and a lot of investment. It needs to mirror your culture, break down barriers whilst taking internal communication into a more open and transparent way of thinking.

It is not so much a whole new platform to look at, but that the lines between work and play are now completely blurred. You can reach professionals and have work conversations on Twitter and Facebook. And in fact on both these channels you can target by profession as well as consumer demographics. It is why Facebook invested in ‘Facebook at Work’.

What would be your advice for the social trends / viral activities that many workplaces undertake – when should and when shouldn’t a business participate?

It all depends on your culture and values. If it is a good fit for your people, the brand and the image you want portray, then do it. If not, it will jar with employees as well as customers and make you appear fake. My advice: create a framework or checklist that allows you to assess the merit of jumping on social media trends.

What is a social media evangelist?

A social media evangelist is a terrible job title for the person often responsible for social. It’s terrible because they are often given the remit with little power or support. They are enthusiasts and not experts.

Where it works, an ‘evangelist’ has a clear defined roadmap to effect change in the organisation. Not just innovators, they are experts who drive plans, ensure integration and educate personnel. But they need authority and the support of the c-suite to make it happen. Best to call them experts, specialists or heads of social!


When it comes to negative posts on a public platform, there can be confusion on how to handle it. Perhaps a disgruntled former employee is leaving negative comments or tweeting in regards to the business – and everyone jumps to panic stations. What would be your advice for dealing with this?

Don’t panic! For a start you should always plan for this – it takes the fear out of the incident. But don’t plan alone. Work with your other teams including legal and HR to map out the scenarios. Plan a clear path to how you will react. Often it is a case of taking the conversation offline and hearing the grievance. But there needs to be a clear escalation. Occasionally, very occasionally, you may need to send a more formal letter, but in the main these issues can be resolved fast face-to-face.

Social media is still in it’s infancy in many ways, but for many businesses, especially SMEs, it seems that it has taken a while to be taken seriously as a revenue generator and an investment area. What are the most up to date options for managing social media? 

From a commercial basis there is little difference between agency and in-house if you are looking at a similar skill set. Where companies still fail at social media is when they give social media to an intern or someone without professional communications skills.

Whilst social is indeed young, it is established and moving at pace. Which means your agency or internal specialist needs to have a grasp of comms, crisis, technology, content and paid media. It can often be a lot to ask of one person alone.

What is the next big social trend that businesses are going to be wanting to understand in the next few years, or that you will be helping with?

Without a doubt it is paid social media. The targeting is the finest we have seen in marketing for a long time. Mostly because it can be set to target behaviours as well as demographics.

More importantly, brands using paid are seeing commercial and revenue results – much of which is outstripping other channels right now.

If you liked these ideas, sign up for the free webinar for (award winning) best practice tips on how to get the most from paid social from Immediate Future http://po.st/IFPaidSocial   If you are looking to purchase ‘likes’ to kickstart your social media channel, we recommend boostlikes.com – a network that allows quick growth of revelant people to your page. This can help encourage more growth!