Social Media Survey - What companies are doing to manage their employees use of social media

By Roy Snell posted Nov 11, 2009 01:25 PM


We conducted a survey to determine what companies are doing to regulate/manage employees use of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  We surveyed our members who are compliance professionals and are often responsible for this sort of issue.  This topic was not only of interest to our members but it caught the eye of others.  We sent a press release through PRNewswire.  200 sites posted the survey results on their web site within 2 hours including Rueters, Forbes, and many other lesser known news outlets.  We posted the survey results on 250 social media groups that relate to our business with a link back to a blog entry about the survey.  1000 people viewed the blog (we have a public SN.)  We have also had about 1000 downloads of our survey results from our web site.  We announced, in the press release, a free audio conference on the subject of managing employee's use of social media, both at work and how their private use may effect them in the workplace.  670 people have signed up for the free audio conference.  This was a bit of a surprise and will cost us more than we had anticipated.  However, we will have a limited promotion, at the beginning and end of the audio conference, of other services we provide and encourage people to become members.   This has given us great visibility.  We believe the viral dissemination of this information went way beyond what we could possibly measure.  Social networking has much greater potential than just bringing people together.  The viral marketing potential is amazing.  The key is to focus on providing others meaningful content (i.e. the survey.) Then wrap around that content, your organization's name, links, further information at your site, downloadable reports and possibly even something as unusual as a free audio conference.  This cost us nothing (except the audio conference) and has probably connected our organization to 10's of thousands of people.

Here is a summary of the survey......

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Compliance: What Are Companies Doing?

A survey by the Health Care Compliance Association & the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics

August 2009

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Compliance: What Are Companies Doing?

The explosion of social media usage on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has caught many by surprise. Facebook alone counts more than 250 million active users.

This has caused many organizations stress as they have sought to determine what, if anything, they should do to limit employee use or at least educate employees to the risk. And numerous risk areas have been identified, including disclosing proprietary information, exposing corporate computers to viruses, and inappropriate photographs that could cause embarrassment to the company.

News reports indicate that some organizations have banned access to these sites at work. The United States Marines are but one notable example.

To help determine what is being done by employers, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and the Health Care Compliance Association conducted a survey among compliance and ethics professionals in late August 2009. Just under 800 responses were received from individuals at for-profit (both public and private), non-profit and governmental institutions.

The results indicate that there is far from a consistent approach either to policy making or monitoring of employee behavior. While some companies have set out a specific policy for their employees’ online social networking activities, half have not. Monitoring tends to be passive more than active, despite the fact that one quarter of respondents reported that their employer has had to discipline an employee for activities on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Detailed Findings

What an employee does online outside of work remains largely his or her business. 50% of respondents reported that their company does not have a policy for employee online activity outside of the workplace. Of those companies that do have a policy, 34% include it in a general policy on online usage, and just 10% specifically addressing the use of social network sites.

Mirroring the lack of a usage policy, roughly half of the respondents reported that their companies do not have an active monitoring system in place. 53% reported that their company either doesn’t monitor, hasn’t had an issue or has a passive system in place—they act when they are apprised of an issue. An informal monitoring process was reported by 8% of respondents. Where there is monitoring, it tends to be the provenance of the security department (23%), rather than compliance (2%). Another 14% of respondents didn’t even know who handled monitoring, or if anyone did.

Despite the lack of formality in processes, companies are finding themselves needing to discipline employees for online behavior at social networking sites. 24% of respondents reported that an employee had been disciplined in their organization for activities on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Interestingly, the percentage was much higher for the not-for-profit sector (33%) than for the for-profit sector (13%). And, once again, demonstrating a lack of development of processes in this area, 37% of respondents did not know if there had been an incident leading to discipline in their organization.


As is often the case with technology, the use of it tends to grow faster than the systems to manage its use. While social network usage has exploded, only about half of companies have put in place policies to govern employee activity.

While the data indicates that many organizations have had to discipline employees for improper activity online, the fears may outweigh the actual risks. A survey asking about discipline regarding improper email usage would likely yield much higher numbers.

Nonetheless, the lack of formal processes for monitoring the usage of social networks could mean that there is much going on that organizations are as of yet unaware. In the long term, that may lead to more rigorous policies and procedures for managing social network usage.

Survey Methodology

Survey responses were solicited during August 2009 from compliance and ethics professionals in the database of the Health Care Compliance Association and the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics. Responses were collected and analyzed using Zoomerang, a web-based third-party solution. A total of 798 responses were received.


1 comment



Jul 18, 2010 12:20 PM

Roy, this is incredibly progressive, congrats on taking this approach. I'm not sure if you did this, but when you post a release on, ensure you have embedded links (key words which are clickable) - they allows a max of one link per 100 words i think but they can be very useful, especially if you track them.