Social media like any other form of company communication regulates the smooth running of your company and defines its reputation out there in the market.
In traditional company communication managers have always had control and oversight on what is published in the company’s name. It isn’t so hard to monitor the slow moving production of pamphlet, brochures and company reports. Today through Twitter, blogs and Facebook both internal and external company communication is faster and far less easy to control.
To guard against the publication of tweets or blog posts or Facebook updates that may damage your company’s reputation and relationship with key clients it is necessary to develop a robust social media policy to which all employees are contractually bound. A good social media policy should protect your company against the actions of two different tribes
- The daft and imprudent
- The malicious axe grinders
The daft and imprudent
Most employees today are savvy social media participants in their private lives. Most know their way around one or two social media platforms: they Facebook everyday with friends, or they tweet to family and colleagues. In their private lives they are all players in the media world with a fan base for their gossip and opinion.
The private online persona of employees, harmless enough between friends, is unlikely to match the requirements of company communications. The casual and unthinking publication of a chummy or drunken tweet that happens to divulge company secrets or makes a cheeky dig at a client could be very costly.
A social media policy has to help and clearly instruct employees to maintain clear separation between their private and professional tweeting, blogging and social networking.
The malicious axe grinders
In the old days (that’s about pre-2005 these days!) disgruntled employees had to work hard to publicise their grievances beyond an audience within immediate earshot. After a grumble round the office most would let it go at that. The seriously cheesed off might send out an e-mail to their entire address book including clients, or buy billboard space. Whatever they did very few had the global reach available to today’s axe grinders. Just a few quick tweets and an anonymous blog post or two have the potential to seriously undermine company public relations and future development across the world and far into the future.
Malicious messages spread through Twitter and other official company social media channels can only be minimised through the implementation of a social media policy that includes contractual obligations and also mechanisms of controlling access to the company’s social media channels.
Starting to work on a social media policy
The following points do not constitute an exhaustive ‘to do list’ for developing a social media policy to protect against the daft or the just plain mean, but they do amount to a good start.
- Understand there is no opting out of developing a social media policy. Banning Twitter at work will not only affect your ability to compete in the market, but it will also fail to keep the company clear of social media problems. The choice is either develop and implement a social media policy that will benefit your company or stand back and let the imprudent and/or malicious develop and run one for you
- Contracts have always required employees to guard company secrets. In modern contracts an extra clause should underline the same with regard to social media.
- Social media content guidelines: There should be a strict menu of subjects listing matters deemed appropriate or inappropriate for discussion on company Twitter accounts and other social media. These menus can be divided into subjects relating to the specific concerns of marketing, sales, customer services, management, finance, human resources and legal departments. Sanctions against employees for failure to comply to guidelines should be listed.
- Publishing on social media should be through official company accounts on Twitter, Facebook etc. If, in the absence of a social media policy, employees take the initiative to develop a twitter following amongst existing and potential clients what happens when they and their personal Twitter accounts leave?
- The company should own the administration of company social media. Who has the passwords? Are there mechanisms for making sure ex-employees digital privileges are rescinded?
Finally, for a bit of fun why not try out the automatic social policy generator.