Regular readers of this blog will know how we feel about social media for business: we’re in favor! We were interested, therefore, to follow two news stories this week, one reporting that Portsmouth City Council is banning their workers from spending time on Facebook, and the other that Brighton City Council is looking to recruit a Social Media specialist.

Now, these are two distinct councils, so there is no hypocrisy at play, but it is instructive to look at these two apparently opposing attitudes. Portsmouth bosses are clearly worried that they are losing valuable man-hours to the irresistible lure of Facebook, while Brighton is recognizing the benefits that are available to them in reaching out to their client base via new channels.

Neither is wrong.

Let’s look at Portsmouth first: you only have to glance around a typical office to see how many workers are flicking between work and Facebook or Twitter screens. How liberal you are prepared to be about this depends, I suppose, on what sort of an employer you are. You might take the stance that a 30-second social-media break every few minutes is just as valid as one half-hour tea break in a day, or you might find yourself boiling with rage as you count up the minutes spent away from your employees’ real jobs.

However you feel, staff need to have a clear policy, so Portsmouth has done the right thing in spelling out their terms of employment. They may live to regret their decision one day, I suppose, when they see how Brighton’s social-media savvy workforce is changing council communications.

Brighton Council has released a job description for a ‘Facebook pro, the fastest Twitter tweeter on the planet’, saying that they have recognized ‘opportunities to increase visibility, build our brand and learn about our audiences by utilizing social media’.

Quite right too! This shows Brighton to be progressive in finding new ways to fulfill its remit to communicate with the city’s people as efficiently as possible (while, of course, always recognizing that the city’s more elderly residents may not be fully up to speed on Facebook).

It may come as no surprise that I learned about both these news stories not through the usual news channels, but on Twitter itself, and there has been quite some tweeted debate around them. As many Twitter users have pointed out, it may make more sense to encourage all Brighton Council workers to embrace social media as part of their wider job descriptions (and perhaps they will, led by this new recruit – they will still need a strategist at the helm).

Questions have also arisen about how sensitive press releases will be handled: the fact that this job description has spread like wildfire shows the power of social media. When it’s harnessed for one’s own needs, it is a very desirable thing, but you would be cursing the day the wrong news story leaked.

What do you think? Would you be glad if your own council started tweeting? Do you ban Facebook in the workplace? Or are you hoping to breed a social media-savvy workforce for a new wave of marketing activity?