Social networking sites have become increasingly popular - 78% of people in the US currently have a social networking profile and it’s expected that 2.95 billion people will be using some form of social media by 2020. It also has massive benefits for employers who allow the use of social media within the workplace. It’s even claimed that employees who use social media are actually more productive than those who don’t, and the more social networks they use, the more productive they are.
However, mixing social media with a professional working environment can bring challenges for employers, because there is often confusion over what is acceptable online behaviour. Some employees see it as a platform for expressing their personal opinions, where they can say what they want. But what employees may not realise is that what they say can have a direct effect on the company.
This is where a social media policy comes in. If you don’t already have one, here’s why it’s a necessity to any organisation:
It provides employees with guidelines
For employees who are unsure what behaviour is appropriate online, a social media policy makes it clear what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Social media strategist at Social Media Explorer LLC, Jason Falls, says, "It's more than just telling employees what they can and cannot do on company computers."
Jason believes that companies should use multiple social media policies, including everything from Employee Personal Blog Policy to Corporate Facebook Public Comment/Messaging Policy. He adds, “while it may seem frivolous to spell out policies for every social network, that's not quite the point. Different networks have different implications for different companies."
When creating these guidelines, or rules, it’s important to be keep them simple and clear. You should go into detail where it’s needed, such as when outlining inappropriate comments, and give examples to help employees who aren’t sure. Educating employees on any legal aspects when using social media also puts into perspective how important it is to be careful when posting online. You should also remind employees to prevent confidential information getting published, to ensure they aren’t compromising private information.
It protects your company’s reputation
Even when employees are using their personal social media accounts, what they post online can have a direct effect on your company’s reputation. Your social media policy should remind employees not to publish anything that could be damaging to the business name, such as work complaints or gossip. These should be spoken about face-to-face, instead of on social media for everyone to see.
According to Inside Counsel, your social media policy should advise that your employees sites may be monitored, so they cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy. You should prohibit the use of bullying or threatening behaviour online to either customers or other employees, and employees should be banned from engaging in illegal activity online.
Huge brands have been subject to reputation damage due to just one employee posting unacceptable content, such as Dominos, who fired a staff member after they posted a video of themselves being inappropriate at work. Not only can this lead to your company losing customers, you will have to build your reputation again, which can take time and money.
It helps to promote your brand
Apart from evoking problems, social media policies can actually help with the promotion of your brand. By educating employees about what is acceptable to post on social media, you are encouraging them to post positively about the company. If your employees are regularly posting links to the company website and blogs, they will increase the number of consumers engaging with your brand and ultimately drive traffic to your website.
To do this however, you need to be able to be able to trust your employees. Your social media policy can educate them on doing the right thing, but you must then trust your employees to stick to the guidelines. You should have faith that your employees will remain professional and respectful on social media, without checking up on them all the time. After all, if you can’t trust them, why did you hire them in the first place?
If you have a social media policy in place, it enables your employees to have a clear insight into what is and isn’t appropriate to post on their social media accounts. It’s important to remember that your employee’s social media profiles are still representative of your company, despite them being personal accounts, and they can easily influence how your company is perceived by consumers. By introducing a social media policy, you can ensure this perception remains a positive one whilst reflecting your company’s culture.