Developing a Company Policy for Using Social Media
This week I’ve been delivering social media training in Nottingham to people from community groups who want to set themselves or organisation up online, to increase their visibility locally and to the wider community.
Here are some of the important things I’ve learned in using social media platforms for business – and those pieces of information which help to protect our online reputation. For some old hands, this might seem like common sense advice but for others who are fairly new, it just raises awareness of the possibilities of what could happen if we don’t pay attention or set parameters.
As with any public front, care and responsibility must be taken with using Social Media; your Twitter, Facebook or G+ page is your message to the world. Make sure you get it right first time, wherever possible.
It’s important to maintain a positive reputation online, so now we see many of the larger corporations and companies have an almost-instant response desk, providing advice and customer care for their products and services.
A few of these companies have discovered the hard way that employees have the potential to abuse their power when using platforms which can reach thousands of people. They took the lead and have taken preventative measures to limit the potential for damage by doing a number of things;
- Including Social Media policies which clearly define guidelines for use.
- Dedicating online tasks to one or more (named) responsible persons.
- Including clauses in employee contracts to limit (company/ organisation) damage.
- Clearly defining boundaries on positive online posts/ comments and representation.
- Outlining disciplinary procedures for breach of contract or misconduct.
Everyone makes mistakes – this is how we learn but… we also have the opportunity more now than ever, to learn from the mistakes of others. And yes, we sometimes will unwittingly say the wrong thing or react to something online – but it isn’t the end of the world. For some, it can vastly increase visibility – but remember; not all publicity is good publicity!
If there has been an error in judgement, or indeed malicious intent, not all is lost; remedial action should be taken immediately, handling the situation with care and attention. This might mean a public (online) apology and a little explanation, but beyond that there is no point in labouring it; as soon as is reasonably possible, draw a line under it, learn the lesson and move on. What’s vital is satisfactorily dealing with customer or client complaints while maintaining a positive reputation for those you represent.
Make yourself aware of the implications of breaching the IP (intellectual property rights) of others. Legally, information passed digitally, i.e via email etc, is and can be protected under law; if you possess someone’s data or information, you are the ‘Gatekeeper‘ or custodian, of that information and are duty-bound to protect the rights of others. In some cases the information you’ve received should never be shared – so be aware of what you’re passing on.
Clear guidelines around using Social Networking are available from the ACAS website with links to other informative pages.
I expect that these will regularly be updated as newer technologies arrive, along with the discovery of other potential hazards over time, in an ever evolving online world.
This and much more information on using social media will soon be available in an ebook – ‘An Introduction to Social Media’