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Saving Eployees from Embarassing Your Brand (and themselves) on Social Media

Q. Not a good day at the office. One of my employees posted a stupid (ok worse than stupid) comment on Facebook and he is wearing our company hat – it has our logo and company name on it. I’d like to tell him he is an idiot, but this is more serious than that. What should I do?

A. You are right – not a good day – and a day happening to many employers. Social media platforms have been branded as a place of self-expression; however, in reality a social media profile has far-reaching professional implications. Employees are representatives of their companies, especially if they are wearing branded attire that identifies them as an employee of your organization. No manager can stand over an employee’s shoulder 24/7 nor should you have to. What you need is an effective social media policy. Follow that with educating your staff about their responsibilities to the company on social media, and then everyone will have a clear understanding of the consequences of violating the policy.

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Create a policy today. Social media is a huge part of corporate and personal communication. Without clear parameters of what is and isn’t acceptable to post, your employee’s daily actions on these platforms can jeopardize your brand’s reputation. While simply having a social media policy in place will not solve the entire problem, it will encourage most employees to think before they post, and communicate what the organization will not be happy to see.

Introduce the policy early and often. Incorporating social media training during the on-boarding for new hires is an easy way to communicate the company’s dedication to protecting its brand integrity. Review and revise the policy annually, and consider attaching a signature sheet similar to those on the sexual harassment documents.

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Explicitly state the consequences of violating the policy. Concrete, specific ramifications for a violation should be easy to understand, and the violation itself needs to allow no room for judgment calls. Effective social media policies should include specific rules for conduct online.

Many organizations encourage employees to post information about the employment experience at the company as part of the recruitment process. Some employers have chosen not to review information posted – others are not as informal. Decide your corporate position on how closely you want to monitor employee posts and ensure that your organizational expectations are clear.

Creating, and enforcing, a clear social media policy is critical to your overall employment brand management strategy. While most posts will not have anything to do with the company, the average reader will associate a user’s content with the company they work for, especially if the brand is visible in the profile. So tell your employee you’ll be happy to review the policy with him, and he has no more passes for bad behavior, and bad judgment.

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Prohibit any posts including or alluding to illegal activity. An employee participating in illegal activity, and sharing it with their network of friends, should not be tolerated and could be justification for termination depending on the activity itself.

Encourage employees to have a “personal account” and a “work account”. This is especially applicable for Twitter. Separating work thoughts and personal thoughts is an easy way to reduce risk on this platform.

Strictly prohibit staff from sharing confidential information or content that could jeopardize the company’s business interests. Most employees are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement as a part of their contract anyway—make sure they understand that this agreement extends to social media as well.

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Finally, it’s always good to remind employees that what they post on the internet is there forever—even the most fleeting thought cannot be erased despite being ‘deleted’.
With these measures in place, employers can reduce their own risk and reduce the chances of employees compromising the company’s brand image.

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