Social Media. Love it or hate it, it is impacting your business. It is nearly impossible to opt out of being a participant even if you choose not to have official social media accounts for your company.
I decided to pen this article a few weeks ago after seeing a local family-owned business fall victim to an employee’s good deed gone awry. An employee posted a public comment on Facebook speaking about a service his employer offered. It was his intention to promote the company he works for and share his pride in the quality of work they provide. The post made mention of volunteers who perform his line of work at no charge. Most days, this comment may have gone completely unnoticed, but the day the post went live was a day our community was impacted by severe weather. Neighbors were helping neighbors, and the post offended many who interpreted the post to mean that the company did not approve of such volunteerism. Within hours, I saw the post shared at least a dozen times in my own newsfeed along with comments by friends vowing never to do business with the company again.
The company took to Facebook soon after and made a public statement apologizing and clarifying that the statement made was not the position of the company. Still, the damage was done, and it could have been prevented with proper staff training and a clear social media policy.
What is a Social Media Policy?
A social media policy sets expectations for how employees are to post content related to your business not only on corporate managed accounts but on their personal social media accounts as well. When written and followed correctly, the policies will lower your risk of legal problems and public embarrassment. Where do you start?
First, Own Your Company’s Social Footprint
Did you know that both Facebook and LinkedIn have tools in place that allow public users to create an unofficial page for your business if a corporate page does not exist? Once that page is created, anyone has the ability to post content to the page. They can also update the contact information listed on the page and rate and review the business. Before you know it, the phantom page has hundreds of likes, comments and references. While that may sound like a good thing, allowing an authorized page such as this to go unmanaged is a ticking time bomb that at any time could destroy your company’s reputation.
I encourage you to take time to explore both Facebook and LinkedIn to see what results are returned when you search for your company. If an unofficial page returns, claim it. Correct any errors. Even if you do not intend to be active on social media, staking your claim over your profile is critical. Many average users do not realize that unofficial pages do not belong to the company or reflect its views.
Next, Protect Your Company’s Reputation
Once you claim your pages, decide if there are other staff members you want to help you manage your site. This is where your social media policy comes into play. This policy should state who may post on behalf of the company, as well as what is and is not acceptable information to post to the company’s social media accounts. Every post made is a reflection of your organization as a whole. Select your administrators and contributors carefully. Be sure to retain administrator access to your accounts to ensure you always have the ability to add or remove administrative users, monitor visitor feedback and edit or delete posts should the need arise to do so.
Your social media policy should also inform employees about what is acceptable to post to their personal accounts about your company. Encourage employee participation, but make it clear that these individuals do not have authorization to speak on behalf of the company and that when making posts, they should do so in a way that makes it clear that the position is theirs and theirs alone. It may be tempting to forbid employees from mentioning the company in any personal post. Resist this temptation. In recent years both union and non-union employers who have done so have found themselves responding to the National Labor Relations Board for violations to the National Labor Relations Act. In addition to potentially violating your employees’ rights covered under NLRA, you also miss out on the valuable marketing opportunity that arises when employees share your message with their personal networks.
If you need a starting point in policy development, I recommend that you review Coca-Cola’s social media policy. It’s one of the best I’ve seen. You can view it online here: http://goo.gl/x2oI.
Last, Train Your Staff On the Risks of Social Media Use
If you allow social media use in your workplace, make sure you train your employees about the risks associated to its use. Last year 52% of organizations reported an increase in malware attacks as a result of employees’ use of social media. The risk of exposure stems from the false sense of security that develops between users and their circle of friends. Facebook accounts are hacked 600,000 times per day so there is significant likelihood that your staff members have been exposed to compromised accounts. Provide proper training so your staff can recognize common social media scams to protect themselves (and your network) from viruses and malware. Excellent training resources are available at https://staysafeonline.org/.