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We’ve all heard the scare stories about social media. How personal posts on corporate accounts have caused embarrassment to businesses, how staff have complained about customers on their private accounts and how simple ‘off the cuff’ remarks have gone around the world and been taken out of context. You might then be forgiven for wondering: why venture out into the social media world when it’s so dangerous?

The simple answer is that it offers yet another channel to your customers and a flexible way in which you can engage with them. So how do you make sure your social media adventure does not become a beast out of control?

One of the ways to protect your business is via a social media policy which sets out the rules and regulations for your staff in terms of social media use and engagement. Like many things at work, having them written down makes life much easier should issues arise. But be careful before you devise over-restrictive corporate policies. By its very nature, the media is ‘social’, and that means your business should have some personality when chatting to clients, as you would in the real world.

A policy can be as restrictive as you like, but most employers tend to opt for a simple solution that explains the core details about what is expected and what procedures are to be followed. At one level the policy may simply be a case of making your staff aware of the risks of social media and how there is no ‘private’ on the internet.

At the other extreme you may have policies that restrict users so much that they are scared to engage with customers and on top of that the business loses that all-important personality, which fits so well with social media.

At the very least, a policy could cover

  • the explanation that social media sites are not private and that employees should, for example, never comment about work issues on their personal accounts, or if appropriate mention the firm they work for
  • an emphasis that those people in the firm who have the responsibility for the corporate social media presence need to fully understand the importance of their role and the tone and style of the messages they issue
  • the actions the employer will take if the policy is breached (and link this in with your disciplinary policy)
  • rules on the use of social media during working hours
  • guidelines on the use of the businesses equipment for accessing social media sites

At the end of the day it’s about trust and engagement – trust in your team and engagement with your customers. If you think you need a written policy to control this, or to have as a ‘safety net’ should things go wrong, then some form of clear policy would be well worth considering.

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