Although social media is such an integral part of our society, its practices can still be a hit or miss for many companies. The reality is that the ability to broadcast opinions and share photographs in real time and to large audiences creates issues for employers that may extend beyond the workplace and expose employers to a public relations nightmare.
Nevertheless, not many companies actually think about the people who are working for them and what they are doing on social media. This should not only be a consideration for big brands but for start-ups and small companies. Creating a social media policy not only has the potential to protect a company’s brand, it also offers guidance and warnings to employees about acceptable online conduct, including online conduct outside of work hours, and can help to justify discipline where appropriate.
So how do you create the ideal social media policy without it sounding like a stiff, corporate set of rules? Below are some suggestions that may help you create a policy that will set out guidelines for online conduct and encourage your company’s employees to become your brand ambassadors.
Encourage your employees to update their job title on social networks, but to also mention that the views expressed are theirs and not those of the company. Employees can define their own personality on social media, even though they have affiliated themselves with your brand. This is an excellent way for your employees to become brand ambassadors for your company by engaging a wider community.
Allow your employees to post about company culture, team mates, etc. in appropriate photographs or status updates. Building a community in social media is hard to do. However, if your employees are supporting the company by posting about company culture, the positive effects of this could improve recruitment results and overall employee happiness in the workplace, making you an “employer of choice”.
Ensure that your employees are educated about the potential harms of social media, so that their comments or posts do not damage the reputation of your company. If a provocative or inflammatory comment or post goes viral, the employee’s life becomes public along with their employer, even if the comment had nothing to do with the employer.
Ensure that your employees distinguish between personal posts and work-related posts. This could be achieved by, for example, having a separate album on Facebook with work-related pictures, or using a hashtag on Twitter to determine post affiliation (#worklife, #officeshenanigans, #Ilovemyjob, etc). It’s one thing to post a picture of you having a margarita on the beach in Bora Bora and another thing to post about having a margarita in the office.
Ensure that employees know what is unacceptable online conduct and where the company stands on such conduct. If employees understand expectations, they will be less likely to violate them.
Encourage employees to tag the company’s page in the description of their work-related posts, whether it’s on instagram, facebook or Twitter. This is a good way to increase word of mouth about your company and have an active community interacting with your brand.
Do not allow employees to post content that could easily be viewed as obscene, threatening, intimidating, harassing or bullying.
Do not allow any incorrect, confidential or non-public content about the company or your clients to be posted on social media.
Do not allow employees to give advice to clients on social media. Instead they should forward any questions they receive to the appropriate department/people. You want to be consistent and not distribute any incorrect or inaccurate information on social networks.
Do not allow employees to respond to questions or negative comments on the official pages, unless they are the social media manager whose job it is to do that. This will ensure that questions and negative comments are dealt with professionally and accurate information is given.
Whatever the size of your company, an internal social media strategy can bring you advantages, whether you are trying to create a community around your brand or seeking new leads. Having your employees become brand ambassadors and influencers on social media will drive your credibility. However, with so much potential exposure, it is very important that your social media policy is clear and understood by all employees.