4 Steps to Securing your Company’s Social Media Marketing Program
It is conventional wisdom that to adapt and grow in today’s online world, most businesses need to embrace social media marketing. However, this new world of instant communication and immediate access to millions of eyeballs comes with serious risks to your company’s reputation, brand and compliance with a wide variety of laws, rules and regulations.
With other traditional marketing, advertising and public relations projects, content was not released and published until it was first vetted and approved by a host of company stakeholders including advertising, sales, marketing, public relations, legal, company managers and leadership. However, today all it takes is an employee with a smartphone and a momentary lapse in judgment to create a firestorm of trouble and legal consequences. Accordingly, an important part of any social media initiative should include a well-crafted security component to prevent unwanted consequences.
Step 1: Creating an Employee Social Media Policy
Every company needs to establish its own tailored social media policy to align with the company’s goals, objectives and strategy for using social media. Of course, much of the policy is likely to seem like common sense, but when a story hits the news where the head of public relations at a major Internet company lost her job over racist tweets, how can we expect a newly employed admin to intuitively know the rules. In order for a company to enforce common sense rules on social media usage by its employees, those rules have to exist and be easily understood.
Details in drafting a social media policy are beyond the scope of this blog, but at a high level among other considerations, the company should start by answering the Who, What, When Where and Whys.
- Who is authorized to communicate and represent the company in social media? Who must approve and authorize social media postings and contributions?
- What topics are employees allowed to discuss online? What can they say about the Company’s products and services? What about discussing competitors?
- When can an employee contribute to social media? Can you monitor and regulate what an employee says on her own time? Can employees access social media during the workday?
- Where are employees authorized to use social media? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter? Where can they conduct company social media business? On their own devices? Only on Company Devices?
- Why are they authorized to use Social Media? Customer Service? Marketing? Public Relations? Internal company dissemination of information and co-working?
As you can surmise from the above list, social media policies are diverse and need to consider many factors including, risk tolerance, industry regulation, corporate culture and many others.
Step 2: Communicating Your Company Social Media Policy and Training
In many employment law areas, companies avoid liability by not only establishing company policy but by having a system in place to communicate and regularly train employees on company policies. Far too often, company policies are set forth in a thick employee handbook only to be buried deep in a desk drawer for years and never see the light of day. However, with respect to Social Media Policy, it is foolish to ignore these policies as just a throw away page in a big book.
A sensible social media policy is a preventative document where employee compliance may avoid significant damage to the company and its brand. Consequently, a company should establish internal social media stakeholders and program leaders and develop a program for policy training and periodic updates to stay current with the rapidly changing social media industry. The policy needs to be top of mind when your employees are online and give them pause before they post.
Step 3: Monitoring and Compliance
Having the ability to enforce social media policy needs to depend on more than waiting to solve damaging crises after the fact. A company should implement software solutions to provide visibility and accountability to its social media policies. Legal discovery in defense of lawsuits and compliance audits by regulators may require or benefit from the production and discovery of social media communications that have been integrated into the Company’s archives, much in the way that they retain emails and text messages.
This area becomes a little tricky. What is the proper balance between an employee’s privacy and a company right to know? It is clear that an employee should have no expectation of privacy when using company computers and mobile devices during their work hours, but what about when employees use personal devices for company business? How about when they engage in personal social media activity during work time on company equipment? And of course, there is the ethics and legality of monitoring employees during their personal time. These are thorny issues that are constantly evolving under the law and the requirements differ from state to state and country to country.
Step 4: Enforcement
Without communicating consequences for violating the company’s social media policy, a company may compromise its prevention efforts. It is important to have established procedures to deal with employees that have broken the rules and to enforce the policy consistently. A company should set up a disciplinary process with stakeholders to enforce the rules. Explaining the consequences for violating company social media policy is the key to deterring the behavior. Some actions may just require a warning where others may result in termination. Compliance with the policy can be increased by having the employees sign an acknowledgment that they have read and understand the policy.
I have found that most problem solving follows basic steps, irrespective of the type of problem or industry;
- Discovery, Assessment and Identifying Goals
- Program Development
- Implementation and Training, and
- Monitoring Compliance and Enforcement.
Taking this reasoned and methodical approach to your Company’s Social Media initiatives may make the difference between achieving your goals or exposing your company to legal consequences and destroying your brand. Play smart.
Please share your ideas on what should be included in a Company’s social media policy? I’d love to hear.