Survey Finds Reasons to Rethink Employee Social Networking Use

December 18, 2009 ( - Deloitte LLP’s 2009 Ethics & Workplace Survey shows companies face a greater reputational risk from social networking than executives think.

Nearly six-in-ten executives surveyed indicated that the reputational risk associated with social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is important enough to address in the board room, but only 15% said their company is doing so. In addition, only 17% have programs in place to monitor and mitigate the potential reputational risks related to the use of social networks.

According to the survey report, to mitigate the risks, respondents said:

  •  “Our executive team regularly discusses how we can best leverage social networks to our advantage while mitigating risks.” – 27%
  • “My company has formal policies that dictate how employees can use social networking tools.” – 22%
  • “Our senior leadership team addresses issues related to companywide social networking.” – 22%
  • “My company has a program dedicated to monitoring and mitigating risks related to social networks.” – 17%

Sixty percent of business executives said they have the “right to know” how employees portray themselves and their organizations online, and 30% admitted to informally monitoring social networking sites.

Fifty-six percent of executives believe that using social networking sites helps their employees achieve better work-life balance, but only 31% of employee respondents agree.

Employees Don't Care


Nearly three-quarters (74%) of U.S. workers surveyed for Deloitte LLP’s 2009 Ethics & Workplace Survey indicated they believe it is easy to damage a brand’s reputation via sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, 15% said that if their employers did something they didn’t agree with, they would comment about it online.


Twenty-seven percent of employees surveyed indicated they do not consider the ethical consequences of posting comments, photos, or videos online — and more than one-third don’t consider what their bosses (37%), their colleagues (37%), or their clients (34%) would think about what they post. Sixty-one percent said that even if employers are monitoring their social networking profiles or activities, they won’t change what they’re doing online — they know it’s not private, and have already made significant adjustments to their online profiles, according to the survey report.


Nearly half (49%) of employees indicated a company policy would not change how they behave online, and more than half (53%) contend that "social networking pages are none of an employer’s business."


When asked what their companies' official policies are about employee use of social networking sites, employees said:


  • "There are very specific guidelines as to what you can and cannot say online in relation to the company and/or client matters." - 26%
  • "The policy is to use your discretion when it comes to posting comments and opinions on the Web and social networking sites." - 7%
  • "There is a policy, but I don’t know what it is." - 11%
  • "There is no policy." - 23%
  • "Don’t know if there’s a policy." - 24%




Social Networking Use


Deloitte LLP’s 2009 Ethics & Workplace Survey found that nearly a quarter (22%) of employees report visiting social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc. five or more times per week, while 23% said they visit such sites one to four times per week. Forty-four percent indicated they never visit social networking sites.


Employees admitted to accessing social networking sites during work hours, but 6% said it is only for business reasons, while 5% said they access social networking sites during work hours only for personal reasons, and 10% said they do so for both business and personal reasons. More than half (52%) reported they choose not to use social networking sites during work hours, and more than a quarter (26%) indicated their company’s network prevents them from accessing these sites.


According to the survey report, nearly a third of executives reported their company's CEO has a Facebook account, and 14% said their CEO has a Twitter account.


When asked how their companies use social networking sites, executives responded:


  • "Social networking is part of our business and operations strategy." - 30%
  • "We utilize social networking as a tool to manage and build our brand." -: 29%
  • "We utilize social networking as an internal communications tool." - 23%
  • "We utilize social networking for recruiting purposes." - 23%
  • "We utilize social networking to engage employees." - 21%
  • "My company has an employee-created Facebook group." - 18%
  • "We post corporate videos on YouTube." - 13%
  • "My company has a corporate-sponsored Facebook group." - 11%











Fifty-five percent of executives reported their companies do not have an official use of social networks, and 22% said their companies would like to use social networking tools, but haven’t yet figured out how.


Opinion Research Corporation conducted a telephone survey on behalf of Deloitte LLP among 2,008 employed adults comprising 1,000 men and 1,008 women, 18 years of age and older, April 9-13 and 16-19, 2009. Opinion Research also conducted an online survey of 500 business executives April 10-17, 2009.

The survey report can be downloaded from here.