Business owners and HR professionals have a new challenge on their hands. How do you guide employees' personal use of social platforms so that they represent the company well?
This is a major issue. It is the rare employee that can leave all of their work completely behind when heading home at 5:00. For most people, their job is something they want to talk about with friends and family. (It’s only natural when you dedicate 40 hours a week to it!) This hasn’t caused much reason for concern in the past, but with the rise of blogging and social networking sites, employees should be careful who’s listening.
Companies should set clear and consistent social media policies, because every time an employee mentions your company’s name online they are contributing to public perception of your company. Your social media policy should do the following:
There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Your company likely has well-established guidelines about employee conduct that just need to be updated to reference new channels of expression.
The most essential component of a social media policy is a reminder to keep client and proprietary information confidential. While an employee might be tempted to shoot off a celebratory tweet when completing a project, signing a new client, etc., it’s worth reminding them what information should be kept in house.
In many industries there is an active blogosphere. Sharing insight about your industry through a personal blog or by commenting on others’ blogs is a great way for your employees to inform themselves about industry issues and trends as well as build personal credibility in the industry. It is okay for employees to identify their role in some contexts, but if they do so, they need to make it clear they speak for themselves, not the company. Use of the company logo and any branded materials on personal blogs should not be allowed without explicit permission.
With social media, it’s easy (especially for risk advisors like ourselves) to focus on what behaviors to avoid and to forget what you should be encouraging as a company. Don’t get so caught up in what not to do that you scare your employees away from any kind of social media involvement. Social media’s here to stay, and the employees that keep up to date on the changes in technology will likely be valuable assets for your company in the future.
Social media platforms and the way people are using them is constantly evolving. Continuously educating yourself about the latest trends is essential to keeping your policy complete and relevant.
It can also be helpful to look at the kinds of policies other companies have put it place. To see some examples, visit www.socialmediagovernance.org -- they store a wide variety of policies from the most draconian to the most liberal out there.
Does your company have a social media policy in place? What else would you add to this list?