Dear Socially Stephanie,
I just found out my company is a cyber-bully. My employee was posting mean things to people and was unpleasant online, but I had no idea it was going on. I've fired her since, but I before I hire someone new, I want to make sure this never happens again. Anything I should do?
Ashamed in Arkansas
Dear Ashamed in Arkansas,
Oh dear. Oh dear. I am so sorry to hear that. Unfortunately what's done is done - you can, however, prevent such a thing from happening in the future. And I'm going to tell you exactly how. So put on your humble hat, because it's time to swallow your pride.
But first, let me fill you in on a little secret. This type of thing happens online. Coming from a personal account is one thing, but from a business account? In the words of Uncle Jesse on Full House, "Have Mercy!" Many business owners don't even know it's happening. So, the fact that you do know about it is a good thing. You now have the opportunity to make things right.
Here's the first step. Take the time to apologize to the people whom your ex-employee upset. I know, I know, it's hard, but your reputation is on the line. Personally, I'd keep this conversation offline or through private communication because the last thing you want is another blow up, or for this little situation to bubble to the surface again. Because you are the owner of your company, when you reach out personally, people will respect that. After all, we're all human, and we make mistakes. Your victims will understand. In fact, they will probably like you even more for taking matters into your own hands. When you respond to a negative review online, 7 out of 10 people will change their perception of your company. The same is true here. We want to turn those haters into lovers.
Now that the hard part is over, it's time to get into a little social media reputation control. Your online reputation affects the business you do online and off. You want to be seen as credible, trustworthy and, most importantly, accessible. The relationships you build with the online community can make or break you as a business. With that said, the people you hire will reflect you and your principles, so make sure they are a good fit. Your social media persona and reputation lie in the hands of those managing your accounts and speaking for you. After all, you are what you tweet and the last thing you want is a Justine Sacco incident.
So, before you even think about hiring another person to manage your social media accounts, you need to have a good understanding of who you want to be online and how you want to be portrayed. You can use my social media commandments.
Thou shall treat people online as you'd like to be treated.
Thou shall give respect and expect respect.
Thou shall BE NICE.
Pretty simple, right?
These three statements should be your online code of ethics and everyone within your business needs to abide by them. Go ahead and paste them on the walls, recite them in meetings, or if you want to get serious, tattoo them on your forehead. The person you hire should be aware of them and live them just as every other person in your business. This will help you stop treating your fans, followers, and customers like crap.
Once you've found that special someone to represent you online, you'll have to do your work to make sure they are living up to the standards set forth. Monitor your social media accounts on a regular basis. That means Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social network you are active on. Or better yet, have a checks and balances system in place. Hey, it works for the government.
Lastly, think about a trucking company. Most trucks have a 1-800 number encouraging people to call in and give them feedback about their drivers. You can do the same thing for your social media accounts. Of course you don't care how you're driving, but you do care about how you're treating others. By adding this transparency within your social media communications, you'll be able to monitor action and get valuable feedback. Plus, if your employees know they are being watched and graded, they are more likely to be mindful of the type of content they put out there.
Don't forget, nice companies and people finish first: just ask Peter Shankman!
I think you are ready for the hiring phase. Good luck!
Do you have a question for Socially Stephanie?
Please email SociallyStephanie@socialmediatoday.com and let Stephanie help you solve your social quandaries, queries, and boondoggles. (Questions may be edited for length and clarity.)
Illustration by Jesse Wells