Globally, interest and participation in social media is growing at an ever-increasing rate as more and more people connect online via various social media platforms. This interest also extends to organisations, who are recognising that social media offers new opportunities to engage customers, clients, targeted communities and the public in conversations and brand awareness initiatives to help grow and develop their brands and services.
But as events highlighted recently in the media have shown, unguided or irresponsible social media usage can have vast ramifications for organisations that do not have effective policies in place.
With the rapid growth and application of social media, businesses need to have a policy in place that ensures employees who use social media (either as part of their job or in a personal capacity), have guidance as to the company's expectations of their behaviour and communication online. This is particularly important around social media usage regarding the organisation, its people, partners, products or services, competitors or other individuals and organisations related to the organisation.
A social media policy can be an organisation's first line of defense in mitigating risk for both the employer and the employee. A well-written social media policy can:
- Provide employees with guidelines for communicating in the social and online world, clearly articulating the organisation's expectations on what is permissible to say or do online, thus ensuring the organisation's representatives understand what is right and wrong and the consequences of posting obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, discriminatory or hateful content to or about another person or entity.
- Provide clarity around the organization's values and culture for customers, employees and the public alike.
- Set expectations beginning at the point of employee induction, ensuring problems are proactively prevented rather than being left to impact upon the business and afterwards require a crisis response.
- Allow the company to allocate the responsibility for content control and approval. In other words, who an employee needs to make contact with in the organisation to get approval for comments or the creation of content relating to the organisation.
- Reduce lost time and productivity spent dealing with unauthorized usage of social media, including dealing with the consequences of conflict related to social media use.
- Reduce risk and legal exposure for the business.
By providing clear guidelines and parameters to your employees, you will be able to ensure that your organisation's brand is enhanced and that your reputation is not inadvertently damaged by comments placed online by an employee.