According to a survey 78% of businesses are planning to spend more time on social media in 2011 than they did in 20101. To me this represents a surge in businesses recognising the potential of social media for helping them to achieve certain objectives online. Another interesting change is that the emphasis on personal interaction via social media has resulted in employers encouraging staff to be more hands-on and actively contribute.
This is a complete turnaround from the attitude of employers when social media first burst onto the scene with many dismissing its use as a waste of time. With this rapid expansion of social media activity comes the issue of companies’ losing control of their corporate image. The key is to not only possess the knowledge of social media but have the ability to apply it to the company’s benefit. This can only be done effectively through official policies and management. Worryingly a recent survey suggested that around 39% of UK workers said there was no policy in place within their firms regarding management of social media and another 24% were simply unaware whether a policy existed or not2.
Without official social media guidelines in place companies could incur:
- Reputation damage
- Breaches of confidentiality
- Time wasting and procrastination
- Distortion of the corporate image
- Liability to employees and other third parties
By allowing employees to use their own individual discretion when networking on social media, you are totally reliant on a person’s own abilities to communicate and interpret your intentions. The information communicated, if not carefully selected and managed, could not only send conflicting messages but also seriously damage your company’s image. A lesson learnt the hard way by Ketchum when it’s PR executive, on his way to giving a digital presentation to FedEx in Memphis, candidly tweeted on his arrival in the city “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say I would die if I had to live here!”. Unfortunately for him FedEx employees got hold of his tweet and notified higher management at both of the companies3. Needless to say it didn’t end well either for him or his company; which demonstrates the importance of a social media policy.
When creating a social media policy from scratch you should include:
- Clearly communicated aims and objectives for its use
- Indicate which platforms are to be used e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook
- Provide concise guidelines on what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior including easy to follow examples
- Show examples of what is considered confidential information within the organisation
- Specify the consequences of a breach of the policy
- Ensure synergies between the social media guidelines and other relevant policies, such as HR or contracts of employment
- Finally, setup a monitoring system, to manage data protection issues and to ensure the correct use of all social media platforms
Writing a social media policy can be tricky, so if you have any questions please post them below or tweet me @SiddanthS.