By Mark Swartz
Canadian Workplace Specialist
Has one of your employees used a social media account to...
- Tweet on Twitter that they’re bored to death on the job?
- Post on Facebook that the last customer they served yesterday was a pain in the behind?
- Blab on your company Blog about a not-yet-public product launch?
- Upload an unapproved, amateurish video about your company onto YouTube?
These are the types of social media no-no’s that happen every day. They can be nipped in the bud by putting together (and enforcing) a simple social media policy for your employees.
What To Include In A Basic Social Media Policy
A policy makes it clear that there are appropriate and acceptable ways to use social media as an employee of your firm. This can help reduce anxiety and clear up confusion. It can therefore free up employees to express themselves more on behalf of your company.
Basic social media policies should include the following at a minimum: guidelines on what employees should talk about online; instructions on avoiding inappropriate content; and rules preventing abuse. Addressing these three areas alone will go a long way to protecting your company’s reputation and privacy.
Guidelines On What Employees Should Talk About Online
You want your employees to talk up your company online. But not everyone knows what sorts of topics to cover. Help them by providing a list of subjects that you’d like to have discussed.
In general, anything that places your company in a positive light - without revealing confidential information - could be open for discussion. Some examples? Announcing new hires. Bragging about recent results. Detailing a day in the life of a particular employee (to show job seekers what it might be like to work for you).
Your employees can also establish themselves as your in-house subject matter experts. In doing so they boost your brand’s reputation. They can update your Facebook page with news about trends and changes in your industry. Or they can Tweet tidbits that cover their specific product or service area. Alternatively they could Blog their thoughts and insights into areas that are touched on by their particular role (e.g. marketing, finance, sales, service, production, etc.)
Instructions On Avoiding Inappropriate Content
Once you’ve given your employees something to talk about, you need to remind them what they shouldn’t be saying online when representing your company.
Badmouthing the competition is something to watch out for. It’s OK to point out your competitive advantages. Except libeling or slandering other people, products or services is not. There are legal implications here so it’s better to avoid bashing altogether.
The rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want to read about it in the headlines of a newspaper, then do not put your words into the public domain. Once it’s out on the Net, word can travel far and wide in the time it takes to click a mouse.
This doesn’t mean that personal opinions or observations shouldn’t be encouraged. They should. It’s just that they have to be balanced with an awareness of where they may end up.
Rules Preventing Abuse
Guidelines are great for steering your employees the right way. However you should consider adding some rules that clarify those areas of concern you are most worried about.
Obvious content restrictions include confidential data (such as sales and profits figures that haven’t been published yet) and negative information that you don’t want made public (for instance internal bickering, planned layoffs, policy arguments at the senior management level).
There are other types of abuse to set rules against. Like using time during the workday, or the company’s equipment, to promote personal social media messages. Or spending too many hours per day on work-related social media, to the detriment of other duties.
Be definite in terms of setting boundaries and stating the consequences for infractions. Your staff is looking for assistance in knowing precisely what’s expected of them.
You can stay on top of things by regularly checking in on your company’s Twitter feeds
, Facebook postings
, Blog entries, YouTube uploads, and whatever other social media your employees are using on your company’s behalf. Being vigilant will aid you in enforcing your new policy.