The internet and social media have undoubtedly changed the way we do business. Companies today are smarter, faster, and have better access to information and marketing options than ever before. What’s more, even if your organization isn’t actively participating in it, chances are that your customers, prospects, vendors and employees certainly are. However, while social media presents several benefits to your organization, it can also pose some threats which is why it is essential that you have a good social media policy that governs how your employees interact with it on your behalf during work hours, on a personal level at work, as well as during their ‘off hours’.
At the end of last year, ComScore released their 2010 digital year end review which confirmed that online networking continues to gain momentum. Facebook users grew 38% to 153.9 million, while other statistics hint at reduced employee productivity. Some even report that employees spend as much as two hours a day on social sites, 87% of which say they had no business reasons for being online. Simply telling your employees that they may not use company computers for personal use is no longer an option.
However, wasted productivity isn’t the only risk your company faces. Unfortunately your reputation and confidential information are at stake as well. From employees taking videos of improper activities while at work and posting them online (Burger King & KFC Incidents); to posting negative comments about your organization or ones that may affect your organization (Chrysler) in their off hours – there are several challenges to overcome.
While you cannot (and should not) restrain your employees from their personal self expression, you should draw a definitive line when it comes to anything regarding your company. The three main areas a social media policy should cover include:
- What your business does and does not do online
- What your employees are and are not authorized to do online
- And what the public (if applicable) can do with your content
Furthermore, some specific details of areas you may want to consider include:
- Researching legal and appropriate ways of monitoring employee behavior online.
- You’ll want to keep an eye on employee internet connections, websites visited, content viewed, instant messaging engagements, etc.
- Encourage respectfulness and accountability at all times. Always a good rule of thumb for online posting is to consider one’s boss and family as definite readers. This helps to prevent inappropriate content.
- Clearly defining that cyber defamation, sharing of confidential information and inappropriate conduct online as it applies to your company will end in termination.
- Provide guidelines as to who is authorized to speak on behalf of your organization in online forums; requiring them to always be truthful about who they are and what they represent (to avoid the appearance of trying to ‘puff up’ your company reputation online in inappropriate ways or methods).
- Expect professionalism from staff at all times. This includes not spending work time on personal social-site activities, as well as treating co-workers, affiliates, and even competitors respectfully both in business and personal social site interactions.
Ultimately the ultimate goal is to prevent negative situations from happening. From the sharing of confidential information, to defamation and reduced employee productivity – staying ahead of issues will definitely pay off in the long run.