Lately, business leaders seem overly concerned about their “social media strategy.” Some of this stems from a need to protect the company from negative social media reviews - and not just from consumers. There’s a bigger concern that a company’s own employees might be trashing the company reputation (whether purposefully, or not) on their favorite social media platform. Let’s put it simply: social media is easily defined as “any online content that is redistributable.” For business-to-consumer companies, social media platforms (like Twitter and Facebook) can be a great tool for businesses that rely on consumer feedback. Social media platforms are also a great way to distribute product information.
Your Culture is Your Social Media
While social media can be a great business asset, many companies would benefit from dropping their social media strategy. Why? Because the best social media strategy is a great corporate culture. When your company establishes a culture that your employees want to promote, BAM – there’s your social media strategy.
The best uses of social media aren’t strategic. They’re fun and interesting – and spontaneous. That’s why consumers read those Facebook posts about their favorite products. Picture this: your employees are using social media to talk about the amazing qualities of your products or services, or the next big project they’re working on, because they’re proud to work for, and therefore promote, your business. If you’re a non-profit organization, maybe your directors and volunteers are sharing their experiences and posting about the communities they’re helping and the people in the organization that are making a difference.
What is a great organizational culture? A great business culture promotes internal openness and transparency, and the helpful exchange of ideas. Yes, every business has its problems. But in a great organizational culture, an employee will know where to go for assistance and will get help when they need it to ease their frustration, and they’ll know better than to vent about the company via social media.
Common Sense Social Media Policy > Social Media Strategy
Companies that actively engage in social media should not have to fear negative internal reviews from their own employees. So instead of a social media strategy, think better organizational culture and a social media policy steeped in common sense. Your organization needs a social media policy that outlines a simple set of rules that everyone can read and clearly understand. Not sure where to begin?
Consider these guidelines for an effective social media policy:
- Include a clear company philosophy regarding social media.
Include statements like, “We believe our team members want to openly express themselves on social media. We also need to respect privacy rights for our clients, our customers, and ourselves.”
- Include a clear definition of social media.
Not everyone understands that social media is anything redistributable, such as email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or a comment on a website or blog.
- Do you want your employees to identify themselves as an employee of the company when using social media?
A great business culture allows employees to identify as employees, but those people understand the impact of positive or negative language on the public’s opinions, especially when it comes to social media. Also, posting AS the company can and probably should be limited. This point is very dependent on how you run your business.
- Should your employees make recommendations to others (whether writing, posting, or “liking”) on social media, as representatives of your company?
This is also very dependent on how you run your organization, and what kind of organization you’re running. For example, a company involved in lobbying efforts, or a company with a highly politicized service offering, might not want its employees to identify themselves as such on Facebook. Some companies prefer their employees not like or dislike anything, lest it negatively affect the business.
- Define appropriate communication regarding clients or partner organizations.
Some businesses must take extra care to be sure their employees don’t use social media to negatively affect clients and partners, as this may be detrimental to the organization.
- Clearly define proprietary and confidential information.
Every company should already have a policy on restricting confidential information, such as business practices, trade secrets, workflows, passwords, etc.
- Understanding Terms of Service (TOS).
When your employees use a social media tool like Facebook, they agree to accept the TOS as the end user – and they should understand how those TOS might affect the business. Your legal department, IT department, and HR department should review the TOS of every major social media organization and verify that all departments and employees are compliant with the regulatory requirements. The organization should have a person on hand that can navigate each TOS, in case employee actions come into question, or should legal circumstances arise.
- Copyright rules or other legal issues.
Identify federal guidelines in addition to copyright restrictions. Be sure your users and employees understand the ramifications of violating copyright and violating certain regulations on privacy. Additional federal guidelines include COPA, the Child Online Protection Act and the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) for youths under 18. Also, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), and many more.
- Impact on productivity.
Social media use and communication should be monitored to address overuse. If your employees are allowed to engage in social media during work hours, make it clear that if it’s determined that social media usage is drowning out their ability to be productive, there will be repercussions.
- Disciplinary actions.
Must be clearly defined to be effective (i.e. which action/violation will result in which repercussion.) For example, first infraction means a verbal warning, second, a written warning, next, a suspension, etc. Your employees must understand that violating company social media policy in certain ways will result in being fired. Explain that poor use of social media can have large ramifications: the company could lose money, another employee involved could also lose their job, and ultimately, the company and/or employee could be at risk for legal action.
An effective social media policy comes down to common sense. Tell your team members to be themselves, to be kind and considerate, and to be aware of confidentiality rules. Ask them to pay close attention to how their language might impact the company and other employees.
Don’t wait – your business or organization needs a clearly defined social media policy based on a great culture and most of all, common sense. Questions? Leave a comment!