Kids nowadays are taught from a very young age that anything you post online is permanent and can be held against you long term. Yet, we have all read those horror stories of times where once innocent employees get fired because they make a foolish mistake, publishing something we all know they should not have, online.
And as the fine line between the company’s image and employee’s personal lives blend together, it is becoming more important than ever to create a policy and culture that protects your company from these public and traumatic blunders.
Though it may seem obvious, your employees are the stewards of your brand. Everything they do, both inside and out of the workplace, has the potential to affect the company. For better or worse, the consequences of a single employee’s actions can dramatically change various aspects of your company – from the stock price to consumer expectations to holding your competitive advantage. With great potential for power, comes great responsibility, and employees need to internalize that.
The challenge, however, is the companies do not want to control the lives of their employees. “Social media is so widespread and common at this point that simply “blocking usage” from their employees is a non-option,” says Anthony Bohdan Rogers, CEO of SocialCaptain. “The challenge, therefore, is being able to balance control with providing a fair work environment for your employees. You want to mitigate overall risk while still maintaining a strong work culture.”
Here are 5 tips to make sure your employees’ social media etiquette is up to company standards.
1. Create a Social Media Policy Document
In a world where offline and online spheres are steadily blurring, it is super important to have rules and standards in place that your employees can go to for guidance. The most common best practice is to have your human resources team should create a internal “company social media policy” document that outlines how employees and the larger organization as a whole should conduct themselves online.
Consider this resource to be a living document that can always be updated and amended to keep up with the evolving nature of social media (and industry as a whole).
You will want to have some legal authority help outline the legal troubles that you want to protect the company against in this document. There are numerous security, lawsuit, and public image risks that occur when an employee maliciously (or without knowing) represents your brand online and you want to be sure you are covering all of the bases.
2. Build an Onboarding Module
After you have created the internal document, make sure that it is easily accessible and made available for all of your employees. Because the legal risks begin to accumulate on day one of the new hire’s journey, it is important that everyone is made aware of the policy as soon as they enter the company. As long as they are associated with your brand, they have the power to hurt (or help) your public image.
As a team, it may be helpful to create a simple training module that explains the purpose behind these rules and regulations. This module could be as simple as a powerpoint presentation or a video walk through. Protecting employee freedoms is very important and you do not want to come off as overbearing and controlling.
To cultivate a strong environment, it is crucial that your policy strikes a balance between logical and helpful. Without buy-in, your employees are far more likely to slip under the policy without you knowing. However, if you can get everyone on board, in agreement with and understanding the policy, you are far more likely to have your team on your side.
3. Confidential Information
One of the more common ways employees, knowingly or even unknowingly, break company social media policies is by leaking information that was supposed to remain secret internally. At a company of serious scale, these leaks can be extremely damaging to the brand and tarnish expensive launch strategies. In the worst case, they can compromise competitive positioning in the market and completely ruin the work of massive teams.
To protect against this, you want to include a privacy and disclosure procedure that defines what is considered confidential and non-shareable information. Confidential information that is distributed throughout the company should require a certain degree of access that you can only receive access to if you, as the employee, understand the risk and burden associated with the confidential content.
4. Encourage A Disclaimer
Another way to mitigate the risk of employees sharing improper content online is to have them include a disclaimer whenever publicly sharing, posting, tweeting, or commenting on content online. This can be as simple as including a disclaimer in their bio on Linkedin or Twitter or, in the most tight case, on every comment or blog post they publish.
Common disclaimers looks something like “all views are my own” and are generally simple and non intrusive. Employees generally do not mind adding this simple line to their bios, as it also gives them the freedom to be more of themselves and independent online.
5. Transparent Culture
While your social media policy document can be well thought out and comprehensive, there are going to be scenarios where employees enter a gray area and are not sure what they should be doing. This often occurs when employees are trying to publish a blog post or appear in an interview.
It is impossible to account for all edge cases, so make your HR team accessible to your employees and create an “approval process” for any miscellaneous social media questions. Make sure your employees know that, to get an interview approved, they should go through your team.