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How effective is your current social media policy?

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The fast paced and anarchic landscape of a platform such as Twitter is perhaps not a place where careful and considered thought would seem to languish. Yet it is becoming more common for companies to develop guidelines for their employees as the boundaries surrounding appropriate online communication continue to blur. 

Why should businesses be aware of social media?

There is often a tendency for social media platforms to be a reactionary environment in which flippant comments are made, often seemingly without consideration of the fact that all comments, once published, are made public. Add to this concoction the blistering pace at which news travels on the web and it’s not hard to see why barely a week appears to go by without some form of social media scandal reaching the headlines. It’s for these very reasons that platforms need to be treated with caution by businesses in order to avoid unwanted attention to the company. 

However, before we dismiss social media to the doldrums it’s important to remember what a potentially useful tool it can be if a policy is implemented appropriately. Having your employees interact with and promote your brand online is a great way to build awareness – Forbes recently suggested that social media in the workplace can even increase productivity. With all of these factors in mind here are some tips to help your business create a social media policy that best suits your place of work.

Don’t be too heavy handed

Trust is cheaper and easier than control, and it’s never pleasant to have to confine your employees, yet a mishap on social media is potentially damaging so it’s important employers set out in writing what it considers to be acceptable conduct regarding online media. Motor company Ford has a very simple yet clear set of guidelines for their employees; use your common sense, beware of privacy issues, play nice and be honest.
Although these may seem vague they do prompt employees to be cautious with the material they decide to share, yet Ford do not inhibit their ability to discuss and promote the brand among their followers. 

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An extension of company policy

Your social media policy should be an extension of your overall policy with regards to the Internet; do you usually allow personal emails? Do employees have access to their mobile or personal devices during working hours? If so, then this must be taken into consideration when deciphering your standpoint on the use of social media in the workplace.

It’s important to be clear on two issues: first of all to establish if there are any boundaries to how employees should use their own social media and secondly how they use or interact with the company’s media presence. 

Show good judgement

It’s essential that you encourage your employees to be transparent when they are online and insure that they know themselves to be personally responsible for anything they publish in the public domain. The idea that the Internet is a place where people can express themselves without fear of consequences for their words is untrue. It’s important that your employees understand that the things that they do and say online require appropriate judgement. 

Create value

It may seem that social media is simply a minefield in which the only impact of any real significance is the potential for public scandal. In fact, there is a huge potential for your employees to add value to your company’s public profile through their online media. There is also the potential for employers to engage and motivate their employees using social media as it allows them to be part of the marketing strategy, giving them an emotional interest in the way that customers perceive your brand online. 

Finding a balance to your business’s social media policy is not as simple setting a few rules; as well as your basic guidelines you may find it easier to have a reactionary element due to the nature of the technology industry and the unpredictable way in which people inevitably respond to it. Talk to your employees to gauge how they already use social media and what they think it can be used for in order to benefit the business. Involving employees in the creation of your social media policy, to an appropriate degree, will help prevent any discontent when it is put in place.

Scott Beaman is a content writer for Slater Heelis, providers of progressive legal advice for commercial, not-for-profit organisations and private clients.

Image: Shutterstock

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