- Category: February 2011
Even if a company doesn’t use social media tools for its external communications yet, many of its employees are definitely active in the Web 2.0 world.They are, for instance, members of Facebook or LinkedIn, or write their own blog or tweets, posting in that way quite often not only private matters, but company information as well. Employees are always ambassadors of their company, even though many may not even be aware of this. In order to make sure that the company is properly reflected by their employees, companies should manage the social media attitude of their staff. Introducing a social media policy that outlines the corporate guidelines or principles of communicating in the online world is a good solution to get a grip on your social media marketing. To counteract any potential threats, companies should establish clear rules and set up a so-called social media policy for their employees.
The following questions should provide a good guide to help you plan for your very own social media policy. Simply ask yourself:
1. WHY have such a policy?
From a legal perspective you should consider two important points:
- Employers need to be upfront with employees that they have no right to privacy with respect to social networking. “Employers reserve the right to monitor employee use of social media regardless of location (i.e. at work on a company computer or on personal time with a home/personal computer).”
- Employees “should be made aware that company policies on anti-harassment, ethics and company loyalty extend to all forms of communication (including social media) both inside and outside the workplace.” People need to remember that negative comments about or bashing your organization/superiors/co-workers online can lead to consequences at work.
2. WHAT can social media do for my organization?
You should think about forming your social policy with an understanding of how your employees are aligned with your company values. “It’s important that authenticity can exist without the need for what may be perceived as forced company morality.”
3. WHO should the policy cover?
Media is for everyone - not just your marketing department. So for it to be truly effective consider expanding the policy to all employees, not just for a select handful of people. One way to think of it is, while it’s called social media, it has a vibrant customer service component to it.
You wouldn’t take the telephone or email away from your employees, so why take social media away from them? “Companies have existing communications policies, directives that spell out the company’s expectation when employees use the telephone or email.” Since the conversation has moved to the Web, “it’s important for organizations large and small to acknowledge that and extend their existing communications policies to include online activities.”
4. WHERE should you let employees know about this policy?
When you give all of your employees the ability to interact with the whole world, you should provide them with some training on how to use it properly and effectively.
Encourage your employees to have, for example, Twitter accounts so that they can interact with current and potential customers, but make sure that they know how to use it properly during new-hire orientation. It’s definitely a great way to form more personal connections with both employees and customers.
5. WHEN is the right time to implement a policy?
The time to think about drafting a social media policy is now. Facebook, Twitter & Co. are growing at incredible rates, proving social networking applications are a success. Companies are using social media tools to establish value in terms of marketing and branding and should start thinking about social media in the same context as all other forms of communication. Common sense is actually all that is needed: Develop guidelines for its use, train people to leverage the benefits, and proactively create a positive social media presence for the organization.
Attention: Keep in mind that it is NOT WHAT you say, but HOW you say it!
Since the boundaries between work and private life on the Web can blur very quickly, and effective social media guidelines cannot be pushed through with only conditional authority, the acceptance of such policies primarily depends on your staff. An imposed, inflexible set of rules with many bans will certainly not achieve the desired effect.
Good social media rules should instead be written in a way that offers employees support and information about the opportunities and risks for their own reputation and that of the company. This means, a good social media guide looks at both aspects: firstly, the document demonstrates a direct benefit for the employees, which has a positive effect on their interest and acceptance, and secondly, the two aspects affect each other anyway and should therefore logically be considered together.
What has been on the Internet once can usually be found there for a long time and cannot be withdrawn easily or in a hurry. That’s why companies should not ignore social media, but regard it as a part of their corporate communications to the outside world. This includes offering employees guidance and support as well as clear rules - within what’s permissible.
In this way, it is not only possible to avoid potential damage to a company’s reputation, but over time helps promote a positive effect on it, as no one propagates the company culture more authentically to the outside world than your own people.
By Daniela La Marca