Protect your business now with an effective Social Media Policy

Sep 21, 2011 Comments Off by

 

The use of Social media is growing every day, and it’s creating big risks for business. Do you have an effective Social Media Policy for your business? If not, it’s time you do…

The stats show that most people use one or more of Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs every day. And now Google+ is open to the public. Social media is going to get even better… and even worse.

With so many people using social media sites at home, at work and often mobile as well, the chances are that your staff are using them too – and probably without your knowledge. What could they be saying?

Even Positive comments need to be Appropriate

It may be great when your staff say nice things about your business – unless of course, these nice things were really meant to stay confidential and ‘in-house’. Maybe the nice things about a product breakthrough were intended to be released by you at a press conference or maybe the nice things about a new deal with a big customer in China needed to be officially released to the Stock Exchange first. Maybe the ink was not really dry on the big deal that a salesperson just had signed when he updated his Facebook status from his smartphone on the way back to the office.

There are all sorts of situations where it is simply not okay for your employees to reveal things about your business – even things they may think are good and positive.

Will You Wait For Damage To Occur?

War stories are now coming to light of businesses being damaged by inappropriate comments by staff using social media. Some situations seem really innocuous, but can have massive implications.

Damage to the Retail Shop’s Goodwill Value

A story emerged recently of an employee in a retail shop updating her status on Facebook saying that she was bored because no customers had come into the shop for hours. The owner of the shop considered that this was very damaging to the store’s goodwill.

Damage to the Mining Company’s Share Price

Sometimes harmless little jokes turn out not to be funny to others. A WA mining company CEO told me a while back about a small hose pipe bursting on one of his mine sites up north. In itself, it was no big deal and was able to be fixed relatively quickly, but before it was fixed, one of the employees on the site used his mobile phone to take what he thought was a funny photo of the burst pipe.

The pipe in the photo had nothing to give a sense of scale to it – and apparently the photo made the little pipe leaking look like a huge pipe with a big hole in it spewing out massive amounts of black liquid. Thinking this was pretty amusing, the employee uploaded it online – to Facebook, as I recall.

After that, the photo went viral and in less than 1 hour, the company’s share price had dropped noticeably and the CEO had a phone call from a big investor in the UK asking for detailed information about this huge new industrial accident, the damage to the infrastructure and the likely impact and duration of the lost production to the mine.

Can Policies Prevent Problems?

Would good social media policies and rules have prevented these events from happening? Yes, probably. Hopefully.

Did the companies involved have such policies in place prior to the events? No.

Most Businesses Don’t Have This Yet!

From available research, most businesses do NOT yet have a defined social media policy that is communicated to their staff and which clearly specifies the rules which the staff agree to follow in their use of different social media.

The policies and rules are not there to make it hard to work at a business, but rather to clearly set the context for what is ok and not ok for an employee to say about their employer.

Raise Consciousness of Damage & Responsibility

That’s not to say you can be totally prescriptive in laying out the rules to cover every possible situation, but you can cover the obvious points and you can give effective general guidance.

You can focus on raising the employees’ consciousness of what could be damaging to your business, and make them understand their level of responsibility for what they say and do online.

The big question for employees and employers to agree beforehand – rather than wait for muck to hit the fan and be spread far and wide by the huge spinning fan-blades of social media – is “What is considered inappropriate in our business?”

Employers Will Resist Hiring “Big Mouths”

Some businesses these days are already doing basic checks of their employees’ online behaviour. Business owners who are social-media savvy can do far more detailed research into a prospective employee’s social media footprint before hiring them.

This will become more and more important in future. Prospective employees who have demonstrated a lack of care about what they say or an inability to follow social media policies for past employers will be seen to be far riskier to be taken on by a new employer. Why would you hire a “Big Mouth”?

Why Wait For Damage?

It’s still early days for many business owners grappling with social media. It’s not just how to use social media effectively in the marketing and customer support parts of your business – the issue is also how to make sure social media does not get used against you by those privy to your ‘warts and all’ inside information.

It will probably take several really high profile situations where massive damage is caused for this issue to reach its tipping point where having effective social media policies becomes essential mainstream business practice.

Yes, I can help you

This is an area where you probably will need some guidance. Turning to a specialist lawyer to do this for you can get pricey. Equally, finding and then ripping off someone else’s document may be foolish, especially if it does not address the full range of risks relevant to your business.

I have developed practical and effective Social Media Policies for a range of organizations. I have a checklist of points I can cover with you to then create a Social Media policy framework for you to use. I can also introduce you to smarter tools to use to do deeper analysis of social media footprints of prospective employees. If you need help in this area, please contact me.

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