How to prevent hair-raising tweets about your top client’s toupee
An ill-judged tweet or Facebook post might go unnoticed – or they might just cost you a top client. Draw up a social media policy so employees know where the boundaries are.
Social media is an essential part of most companies’ marketing operations these days. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter offer excellent opportunities to engage with customers, gather feedback and develop your brand. Almost all employees will use some form of social media, whether it’s posting selfies on Instagram or talking to other professionals on LinkedIn.
While social media offers many opportunities, it also carries risks. As the format continues to develop, there are many grey areas in the law and in social norms. As a business it’s wise to adopt a social media policy to set out your expectations.
It should be noted that avoiding social media altogether will not make your company immune to these problems. Employees could still be posting negative messages about you on Facebook, or you could find disgruntled customers airing their grievances about you on Twitter. Worse still, workers could be revealing customer data, whether deliberately or inadvertently.
If you’re keen to develop a social media policy, here are some pointers about what it should cover.
- Your approach to social media
It’s important to note the benefits of social media in your policy as well as the downsides, otherwise the document could sound punitive and out of touch with employees. You may wish to spell out your employees’ right to personal expression via social media, confirm that the company will not seek to breach workers’ privacy and state that online harassment will not be tolerated.
- Internal usage guidelines
Are you comfortable with employees using social media for personal reasons during work hours? If you’re a flexible employer you may not have a problem with this, but some companies choose to restrict usage for confidentiality or productivity purposes. There can be some grey areas here too; for example, if your sales team uses personal connections to find introductions on LinkedIn. Set rules to define content that is suitable for work and whether it’s acceptable to stream videos and download third party content.
- External usage guidelines
These should cover employees posting – either for or about the company outside of company time or off premises. This can be a difficult area. Be careful about who has access to company social media accounts; you never know who might get tipsy at an office party and post inappropriate comments. Employees should also be told that they will face consequences for posts that show the company in a poor light on their own social media accounts. It can be difficult to draw the line, but all workers will know that, for example, being crude or offensive about colleagues or managers on social media is wrong.
- Confidentiality and data disclosure
With anyone and everyone you meet becoming a potential ‘friend’ online, it is easy to let information slip. For example, an employee could say in a chatroom they are exhausted from working on an account prior to a particular company merger, or excited about launching a new product. This information could have disastrous consequences in the wrong hands. Your policy should make sure staff know that mentioning client names or any data about your business on social media is prohibited.
- Who owns company accounts?
If an employee sets up a social media account as part of their job role and develops a large following, do you retain ownership of the account when they leave? If you don’t clarify the terms of these types of accounts, you could be waving goodbye to much of your company’s social media reach as employees leave. Having a clear policy will set the expectations for everyone, but as case law is very new in this area, it’s subject to change.
- Written consent
It might sound like overkill, but you should circulate copies of the social media policy and insist on written confirmation from employees that they have read it and agree to abide by the rules. This will not only prevent problems arising, but if they do you’ll be in a better position to take disciplinary action.
What’s your company’s position on social media? Are you overlooking the risks to your business?