There is nothing quite like the power of social media. It can single handedly be the making of a company – or, it can be its undoing. These days, the line between winning status update and PR nightmare can be very thin indeed. Yet, avoiding social media is simply not an option.
With every sprawling corporation and fledgling start up now vying for the attention of internet users on Facebook and Twitter, an unwillingness to get involved or a lack of knowledge about how modern social media platforms function represents a serious market disadvantage. If you are not connected, how can you know what your customers want?
So, if social media is a PR minefield, but a necessary evil nonetheless, how should it be approached within the workplace? Is it best to restrict networking at an internal level, with carefully implemented regulations and posting policies? Or, is it more effective to educate and inform employees, so that they can make good decisions about social media for themselves?
These handy tips and tricks for creating a suitable social media policy for your workplace will help you to make sure that the internet is always on your side.
Whilst this might sound like an obvious piece of advice, it is not unusual for companies to draw up a written social media policy and then make ‘off the cuff’ changes, which they forget to legitimise by adding to them to the document. The problem with this is that it means there is no official place to turn for guidance and no legally binding policy to consult to in situations which cannot be dealt with using immediate and responsive action.
It is imperative that all employees understand the difference between confidential information and suitable marketing content. At its most basic, the distinction states that anything which does not relate to company products, services, promotions, events, or affiliates is not appropriate material for networking. For example, in 2013, music chain HMV was left red faced after a social media executive used the company Twitter account to ‘live tweet’ the firing of 190 staff members. If an employee shares confidential information about internal affairs, they are in breach of their contract.
This is undoubtedly the murkiest rule of them all, because there are so many different laws governing what companies can and cannot say on the internet that it can feel impossible to keep up. However, there is one overarching standard which defines and informs almost all of these laws and stipulations – the customer must be protected. This means that sharing personal details about customers or clients, without their permission, is potentially unlawful. It was a hard lesson to learn for restaurant chain Applebee’s, which came under fire after an employee posted a picture of a customer’s check (crucially, minus a tip) on Facebook.
It is remarkable how many companies – large and small – continue to fall prey to this major social media faux pas. There is nothing which turns customers off faster than businesses and brands which are willing to use tragedies of any kind to sell products. The perfect example of this comes from US recipe website Epicurious, which combined a series of ‘supportive’ tweets about the Boston bombing with a suggestion that its cranberry scones might be a soothing remedy. And the Brits get it wrong sometimes too – Luton airport got a serious slap on the wrist after unwittingly posting a whimsical caption alongside a picture of an aeroplane crash which killed a child.
This too can be tricky, because the line between ‘company spokesperson’ and affiliate or ‘fan’ can easily become blurred, especially for businesses which run a number of social media pages. The simplest and safest way to approach social networking is to restrict the amount of people who have the authority to speak on behalf of the company (and even then, you can decide to have the majority of their decisions vetted before approval). In all other instances – every page or platform which does not have official approval, including personal profiles – must never claim to speak on behalf of the business or brand.
At Unity Online we understand that most business owners are too busy to handle running the business as well as looking after the social media. If you have been struggling to manage your social media as well as all your other responsibilities and would like some help, why not contact us today or call us on 01473 350485.