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Encourage positive engagement with a social media policy

August 1st, 2012 / By: / Management

Want engagement? Think policy.

Social media…What is it? Who controls it? What is right or wrong? How does it affect my business?
If you can’t spell out 30-second answers to each of these basic questions, how can you expect employees, vendors and business partners to understand the benefits and risks of engaging in social media in ways that affect your company?

The reality is that many business owners and managers tune out these critical questions until an ill-conceived Facebook post, tweet or blog post results in a negative situation. On the other end of the spectrum, some companies issue policies that are so restrictive that employees are discouraged from using social media in a positive, engaging manner that benefits an employer.

Delineating a policy and educating employees on expectations for online activity can often prevent a very serious crisis from happening. Just think about the following scenarios. What is your plan if …

  • an employee mentions a top client on a personal account? The comment isn’t flattering, and the client (and hundreds of others) read it.
  • a member of your business development team has “friended” every client you have, unwittingly publishing your entire client list on the web?
  • a manager fires an employee for posting something on a personal Facebook page? Who do you support? Is your manager in the right or invading employee privacy?

The first question you should ask is, “Could the situation have been easily prevented?” The key to managing
these situations is to establish expectations for online activity that relates to your business.

Enable the right actions

One of the most damaging situations for everyone is when good employees do really dumb things simply because “no one told them otherwise.”
Many great employees are out there trying to support and grow the companies they work for, but no one has given them the tools and direction to properly help themselves. Some of the brightest employees are scared to do something that would benefit their employer due to a past management failure that doesn’t apply to the current situation. Here are three points to keep in mind:

  1. Social media isn’t just about marketing or talking with your audience online. It deals with communicating your business value, recruiting new hires, protecting your intellectual property and managing personal privacy.
  2. Consider who may be affected by a social media policy. In order to have an effective social media policy, you need to train and manage everyone it applies to. Creating a social media policy for a team of five is entirely different than creating one for 500.
  3. How fast is social media moving in relation to your business, and what is your reaction time? A usable policy takes your company size and maneuvering ability into account. Proper communication processes reduce the amount of time it takes to shift direction, but creating policies that exceed your abilities is a sure-fire way to invite frustration and failure.

A solid social media policy provides your employees and your top ambassadors with the proper tools and training to help your organization without creating artificial obstacles for them. Reward employees for making the extra effort to do things the right way.

Really big impacts can happen in minutes, months or years. Work within your organization to understand and enable the professionals on your team so that they can make proper social media decisions for your business in a timely manner.

Barry Hurd is managing director at Epiphany Metrics, a digital firm that integrates business processes with emerging markets, and founder of TradeShowMedia.com.

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