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Social Media Policy – Five Essential Questions
Posted on September 13th 2011
As a communication channel, the digital ‘tidal wave’ of employees using social sites has opened numerous concerns for business owners.
Business executives often rely on traditional human resource and public relations tactics to manage how they manage the workforce. The problem is that these traditional tactics don’t take into account the numerous laws, regulations, and compliance issues that are found at industry, local, state, and federal levels.
Your social media policy needs to be ‘revamped’ from the ground up.
Some core questions you should think about
Who owns it?
This is both a legal question and an internal management question.
Part one: If your employees are allowed to post on social media sites during work hours or are required to post on sites as a function of their job, who really owns it?
This can be a very important question to resolve in writing with your employees. There are numerous cases were a socially engaged employee networked with hundreds or thousands of high-value contacts on a personal account and then took those assets when they left the company. This error could easily represent a six figure mistake twelve months down the road. (Just think… what would happen if your entire e-mail or client database was on the web and someone else owned it?)
Part two: do you have the ability to make effective decisions in your online communication?
In many organizations marketing owns the social media channel.
As organizations get larger and more complex, decision makers from information technology, public relations, legal, human resources, and executive management also get involved.
It is critical that a well-defined communication hierarchy is established so that effective actions can be taken when required.
Do you have access to all your social accounts 24/7?
Two important ideas to consider:
- It is Saturday night. Your office catches fire. Several witnesses on Facebook and Twitter comment and it begins to ‘go viral’Can you access all the pertinent social channels at your company to communicate the right story without being delayed?
- You fire an employee.You thought you owned it. They have the passwords.Have you created a proper human resource and information technology process to retain your social media assets without delay?
Have you identified mission critical communication paths?
There are multiple process paths for your social media policy that need specific guidance.
Some examples include
- sales / marketing funnel
- consumer communication
- crisis escalation
- security breaches
- employee/client privacy
- regulatory concerns
- executive communications
- investor relations
Each of these communication processes have mission critical elements that are accelerated by social media usage. In many cases the most immediate requirement is the management of fast and effective communication for senior managers and executive leadership. In the world of social media policy, many mid-management employees feel they are doing the ‘right thing’ and are unfortunately trying to make decisions in an area of business that they are acting blindly in.
Are you monitoring your employees for rogue communications?
This is a very tricky question.
- What if an employee says something horrible about you or a client?
- What if it turns out that what they said was not true?
- What if someone else posted it using their credentials?
- Have you communicated proper expectations to the employees in question?
If you have doubts about any of these questions, you open a series of employment headaches.
On top of the basic questions above, there are also a number of legal and civil rights and liberties that public and private employees have at the industry, local, state, and federal levels.
Does it influence hire / fire decisions?
Before you respond to a gut reaction to hire or fire someone based on social media commentary; do some research about local and federal regulations.
The National Labor Relations Board researched 129 cases that involved social media and the workplace to determine what the precedence for terminating an employee. The general conclusion of the NLRB was that the most common error was an “overbroad policy” that restricted employees from commenting on wages, corrective actions, and complaints about the company or it’s leadership.
My Biased Bonus Tip:
Don’t rely on a boilerplate social media policy
While we work with social media policies and strategic planning, it is critical to understand that your social media policy is not about marketing. It affects dozens of points within corporate business and represents benefits and liability areas that reach into six and seven figure sums.
From an expert level, most borrowed social media policies and the strategic planning giving to them have extraordinary holes in them.
Copying social media policy from a competitor or like-minded company risk issues and voids almost all the benefits of having a social media policy in the first place.
What would you detail in a social media policy?