Let’s face it: There are still way too many people who think social media and social networking sites are a fad and time-waster.

I mean, how else do we explain the thousands of companies that have strict firewalls at their companies to prevent employees from using these sites.

(And if you think that because you have a firewall, your employees aren’t accessing these sites, think again. With iPhones, Droids and other smart phones, employees can do it all anyways if they have one of these devices.)

When I tell people about one oft-repeated statistic, it always seems to perk up their ears: If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth-largest country in the world

Yes, Facebook has over 350 MILLION users.  They can’t all be teenagers and college kids.

That’s not to say that companies ought to open the floodgates and let employees spend all their time playing Bejeweled Blitz or Mafia Wars. (If you don’t know about them, consider yourself lucky.)  

But I do think the time has come for companies to start thinking about these issues.  Ultimately, many may want to implement policies and practices that can take advantage of all that these sites DO have to offer and providing employees with needed guidance about what they should and should not be doing with them at work. 

LinkedIn, for example, has become a huge resource for companies for recruiting and hiring. And Twitter may be a great tool for customer service.  

Yes, it may turn out that for some employees, there are very few practical uses of these sites in their day-to-day jobs.  But that doesn’t mean that employers shouldn’t seriously look at these sites. 

I’ve covered this extensively before, but two posts over the last week or so, are great guideposts that employers can use to benchmark where they are and where they’d like to go.

  • A Law.com article suggest that employers craft a policy that has "distinct goals that take into account the nature of the company and its workforce."  It then provides a number of factors and issues for employers to consider. It echoes what I said at a presentation recently: There is no one size fits all policy; figure out what the business goals are of the company and align your policy to best meet those goals.
  • But even better, Doug Cornelius — of the excellent Compliance Building blog — has compiled a list of 132 Social Networking policies for employers to mix and match.  It’s a terrific resource and should give employers many ideas on how best to craft their policies or guidelines.

Employers have legitimate reasons to be concerned about employees using social media and social networking sites, particularly for non-work related issues.  And there are legal risks associated with these sites are still being analyzed. But ignoring these sites in the hopes that your company will be immune from their spread, is repeating the same mistakes that companies made years ago when e-mail was introduced. 

And we all know how that turned out.