Social Media Week 2012 SP

How to Embrace Employee Social Media Use 

While the Internet, and social media in particular, exist as an open platform for people to openly communicate their thoughts and feelings, the truth is that this can have disastrous effects for a company that hasn’t given much attention to a social media policy. Without proper guidance on what is and isn’t an appropriate reflection of the brand on social networking sites, companies risk their brand being negatively impacted by the unfiltered thoughts of its employees. To help combat this and make social media use more involved for everyone, it’s essential that every company sit down and develop a social media use policy for its employees. For those that are unsure where to begin, here are key points to address.

Build a Strong Foundation for Employees to Voice Their Concerns

By providing an internal foundation for employees to openly share their concerns, employees are less likely to take up their issues with random strangers on the Internet. In addition to providing a forum for your employees to honestly share their thoughts on the company’s direction, it will also dramatically cut down on negative references to your company’s brand from disgruntled employees on social media sites.

Don’t Be Afraid to Limit What’s Appropriate for Social Media Use

As dirty as censorship may sound, it’s an undeniable fact of life that some things must remain confidential. When crafting a social media policy, it’s important to outline what is closed to the public and not to be shared. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply inform employees of sensitive areas. Ensure that employees have a specific contact to consult when the confidentiality of business is in question. If there’s room for ambiguity, your employees will inevitably take advantage of it.

Teach Your Employees About Internet Responsibility

As effective as viral marketing can be, it can also work to negatively reinforce stereotypes about a company’s brand if left unchecked. Part of the problem stems from the way many people still view social media as a private engagement. The unfortunate truth is that posts among friends can quickly leak to others before ultimately landing on the front page of a popular website. By teaching your employees about posting responsibly on the Internet, you can control what type of content is appropriate to share, as well as what the appropriate type of exchange is with a potential customer. Being polite and respectful of other people’s opinions can go a long way to maintaining a company’s reputation on social media sites, even when an employee is posting from their private account.

Invest in Proper Training

While it’s true that even a comprehensive social media policy can’t completely protect a company from issues, it can drastically lower their frequency. Education and training are two of the easiest ways to avoid a problem in the longrun and are absolutely essential in maintaining a social media presence as a company grows in size. As more employees are pulled into the fold, it’s only a matter of time before their thoughts on the company begin to leak into their private social media accounts. By taking an involved stance early on, you can choose exactly how to craft your company’s interaction with both its consumers and its employees on the Internet.

Of course, not every company relies on a comprehensive social media policy for its employees. Some are content to simply ask that each employee uses their best judgment. While trusting your employees to do the right thing may sound like a reasonable expectation, the truth is that every day employees make the wrong call and seriously damage the reputation of their employer’s brand. This guide can’t insulate you and your business completely from the dangers of an unhappy employee going viral, but it gives a foundation of understanding and trust from which your business can build up further on its own.