Many of us are using social media in our day-to-day lives. Yes, even during work hours. Many small business owners don’t see a potential problem with social media use and leave it to the employees to practice “good judgment” and use common sense. The idea that someone would post inappropriate statements, photos, or comments, for example is not of great concern. Plus, you don’t want to micro-manage your team. What good does that do? Actually, having a corporate social media policy can do a lot of good and still provide a feeling of empowerment.
Having a social media policy in place will help your team understand how to use social media with regards to your business, empower them to make the call and protect your company’s reputation all at the same time. It should not be designed to hinder communication or deflate the individual. It should be an extension of your current employee behavior practices.
Think about a customer service call coming in. The caller may be irate and intolerable. Would it be OK for the customer service rep to lash out at the customer? No! I bet it is written somewhere to maintain your composure and listen patiently to the customer. The same can be said for a tweet that comes through or a post on your Facebook page or blog. When a customer is unhappy with your company or product and calls you names and says nasty things to your staff on the phone, in an email or on your social channels the team still needs to address their concerns in a professional manner.
Here are several things to consider when developing your social media policy for internal use.
- Provide a complete list of all the social media channels your company participates on.
- Explain what your participation means to the company, why you’re there and what you hope to accomplish so that everyone has a clear understanding of your goals and intentions.
- Provide details on how each employee or department is expected to participate, how they should introduce themselves and to what extent are they expected to participate.
- Create a rulebook for each social media channel. Give an overview of what the site is about and then identify the key things they need to know to successfully participate there.
- Provide a sample of responses to common posts about your organization
- List “best practices”
- Create a basic script, i.e. “Hi. My name is Jane and I work for company xyz. I’m sorry you’re not happy with our product. We want to see what we can do to help. May we call you or email directly so that we can better understand your concern? Please respond to us via this email address firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you for allowing us this opportunity. Sincerely, Jane (and title)”
- Be sure everyone knows what can and cannot be said. Although this may have already been outlined in your employee handbook it may not be clear that the same rules apply to social media participation.
- Finally, make it clear what your expectations are regarding personal use of social media during business hours.
Next consider how to manage a policy regarding employee’s activities on their own personal social media channels. Here’s where it gets a little tricky. I recently read an article in Bloomberg Business Week that was very thorough and informative. It basically comes down to common sense. When asked how a small business should handle social media Attorney Anthony Haller, chair of the employment, benefits, and labor practice group at the law firm Blank Rome in Philadelphia responds “They need to implement policies that help employees with the right etiquette. Effective employee guidelines say things like: Don’t use offensive language, don’t post something obscene or embarrassing, exercise good judgment, and if you’re talking for yourself—not the company—make sure you’re clear about whose views you’re expressing. You certainly want to make clear that employees should not take photos of people at your workplace and post them without permission. And they should be told they cannot reveal things like the company’s investment strategy or future plans.”
A corporate social media strategy should reinforce current corporate policies and the type of culture your business built itself on.