It wasn't too long ago when social media sites such as Facebook were only perceived as harmful to the productivity of employees. Now, there are companies that coach employees to become brand advocates in social media. In fact, social media is here to stay. It is used both within and outside companies.
A few years ago, many companies don't allow employees to talk about where they work and what they work on. Using social media was seen as a security threat in this case. Inside the company, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites were blocked because of the possibility that employees might share classified information.
However, as the years went by, many companies felt the need to have consumer-based technologies. This led to some businesses allowing the use of social media within organizations so that each employee can promote the brand. In turn, new sets of rules had to be implemented so that all employees can achieve a common goal set by the company.
Moreover, some companies have carried out formal policies and capitalized in such social media services and software as Yammer, Jive Engage, etc.
While companies understand that there are risks involved in using social media within companies and allowing employees to promote the brand using social media, the idea is that the benefits are greater than the potential risks.
Social media has gone a long way from being perceived as just a nuisance to employee productivity, to being a necessary tool for brand promotion. (Image: Jon Bunge (CC) via Flickr)
Writing Guidelines for Social Media Use in Companies
Right now, companies need to write guidelines, and not policies that are unchangeable. There is no general structure to date. So the best thing to do right now is for companies to advise their employees to use good judgment when using social media.
Primarily, companies should know the National Labor Relations Act, a rule that protects the freedom of speech of employees. Having said that, this right is often sketchily understood, and many companies have been disciplined for dismissing employees for stuff they post on social media using their personal accounts. In fact, the NLRA allows employees to use the logo and name of their company when posting in social media.
Of course, companies can provide policies preventing employees from badmouthing their company or sharing private business info using social media. Still, they have to keep in mind that employees have rights, and a balance must be achieved.
On the other hand, companies have more control over the attitude of employees towards their customers. An employee that belittles customers in social media engages in unlawful harassment and will experience the full blunt of the policies that employers have a lot of leverage on.
Employers also have more control over employees when they are using official social media accounts of companies. For example, employers can impose policies not allowing employees to post personal stuff in these accounts.
Social media training program of MasterCard
MasterCard launched their serious social media training program with Conversation Suite. According to Andrew Bowins, senior vice president of MasterCard Worldwide, in an interview with social media today, the Conversation Suite is "driven from our company's commitment to engage consumers and merchants directly, build even stronger relationships issuers and engage people in conversations that were meaningful to them."
Conversation Suite is the social media hub of MasterCard. In the middle of the company headquarters, a 40 foot Led monitor is put up, allowing the company to listen, analyze, engage and respond in real time to millions of online conversations across 43 markets, 26 languages and multiple platforms around the world.
The program allows Mastercard to understand their audience better, providing meaningful and real-time insights that lead to smarter business. The Suite also stimulates conversation within the company, resulting to new ideas and engaged discussions. New products are developed, and new ideas are formed. Furthermore, tracking and analytics is also done to help MasterCard know what works and what customers really want from them.
MasterCard wants all of its 8,000 employees to become brand ambassadors, and the Conversation Suite is a part of that strategy. To achieve this, the company has created guidelines for social media use that are easy to understand, promotes sharing among employees, but doing it safely and with specific limits, including not sharing classified information.
In addition, MasterCard created a cross functional team that was responsible for making the vision as to how social media can be an advantage and not a liability to the company. According to Marcy Cohen, Vice President of Communications, "by forming this cross functional team, it was clear that social media usage is not owned by any one department but rather a cross functional business priority which could benefit all the departments in MasterCard."
Lastly, MasterCard created a training program called Social Media 101. It also created a Communications Plan for training employees on the use of social media both within and outside the company.