As social media marketing continues to become an effective (if not essential) avenue by which businesses can connect with customers and build relationships, the way your team communicates with audiences online will also be critical to the success of your business.
For some organisations, it would seem the risk of a reputation nightmare or a security breach has proven too big, and they have banned social media all together. But, are they missing a valuable marketing opportunity by not letting their staff on social networking sites during work hours? At the end of the day, your staff are your greatest brand ambassadors, right? Well, not always…
You may have read earlier this year about former medical technician Dawnemarie Souza who, after being fired for using vulgar language to criticise her boss on Facebook, took her company to court.
The case received widespread attention for its ground breaking attempt to set legal limits on employers’ internet policies, and also highlighted some very serious issues.
1) Souza made the comments from her private account on her own time and on her own computer. Several co-workers (also friends on Facebook) joined in on the thread, making similarly negative comments about the supervisor.
2) The National Labor Relations Board insisted that Souza’s postings were a “concerted activity,” so is therefore protected by employees’ rights to communicate with one another in an effort to improve work conditions.
3) Her employer on the other hand argued that Souza’s comments constituted “online badmouthing” which violates company policy.
The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but one thing is for sure, it certainly argues the case of how important it is for organisations to incorporate a social media policy in the workplace.
AND creating a policy is very different to having a policy that your staff are actually aware of, and completely understand.
According to a recent global survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute, even if they have a policy that addresses the acceptable use of social media in the workplace, 65% of respondents say that their organisations do not enforce it or they are unsure. Furthermore, the top three reasons for not enforcing these policies according to the study are;
- lack of governance and oversight (44%)
- other security issues are a priority (43%), and
- insufficient resources to monitor policy compliance (41%)
So what should your social media policy include?
No matter which way you look at it, there is a fine line to walk between being unreasonably restrictive and overly liberal but there are some travel companies who actively engage their staff in social media.
For example, at Radisson Edwardian, they identify a ‘Hotel Champion’ at each of their venues. The ‘Hotel Champions’ put themselves forward to promote the group’s social media activities. They then meet with these ‘champions’ once a month to discuss ideas about getting guests involved with their social media channels, as they have been the ones actively asking guests. They also write guest posts for their company blog.
Similarly, Joie de Virve also delegates a social media champion at each of their properties. The champions are empowered to create content, talk with guests and share relevant brand and hotel information. They also meet regularly at their social media summits at the Joie de Vivre University, where they also recognise and reward their champions.
These examples show that by creating a good social media policy that encourages your staff to support your social media activities rather than discouraging them for fear of breaking the rules, you can in fact activate some of your greatest advocates: your employees. And with social media marketing, the more voices sharing relevant content about your brand, the greater your reach.
Here’s a few guidelines to help you when drafting your policy;
- Highlight which sites you will focus your activity on. Is it just Facebook and Twitter or are you referring to your company blog, LinkedIn, YouTube, and your own company website’s discussions and forums section as well?
- Provide a clear explanation of what social media means to your company. Why are you investing all this resource to participate in it AND what do you hope to get out of it?
- Make sure you highlight that no matter what position they are, whether CEO or administrator, they are still a face of your company, and their interaction counts. A good way to do this is to make them aware of the goal at large, and how they individually play a role in helping you achieve this.
- Make it clear whether or not your staff are to identify themselves as being part of the organisation and, if so, how are they to do it? Do they need to create company-specific accounts with the company name in the username or will they be engaging from personal accounts?
- You may find it helpful to provide specific rules for each network that you will be working on BUT it’s still advised to include a general Best Practices guide. Introduce employees to the networks, tell them about your established accounts on each network, the purpose of the account, and some best practices for how they are to engage there.
- You may also wish to highlight best practice for dealing with negative responses. For example, what should an employee do when they see a negative tweet about your brand? How do they handle any false claims? How much personal information are they allowed to share? In most cases, we would suggest that the person who is overseeing the company’s social media should be immediately notified.
- And finally, make sure you outline what is expected from your staff in terms of how much time they are allowed to spend on social media. Yes they might be tweeting all day about you, but if they don’t get their work done, then something else is losing out.
Have you got any other tips to share?