It’s not just the marketing staff who can reach out to customers these days: any one of your employees may have a Facebook account, a blog or a presence on various sites out there. Depending on your employees, that can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.
It’s very tempting to create draconian policies prohibiting your employees from using social media, or at least telling them never to mention your company’s name online. But it’s essentially impossible to enforce such rules. Even attempting to ban the use of social networks while at work is tough in the era of smartphones. If you’re serious about having and enforcing such policies, you have to be prepared to stare at every one of your employees every hour of the day in order to be sure that they’re following the rules. It’s not a practical situation.
The alternative is creating a social media policy that your employees are on board with, that they feel that they can live with and that satisfies you as well. Such an approach can also give you the opportunity to talk to any employees that might be interested in working on social media initiatives within your company.
The first step to a good social media policy is to find out how your employees already use sites like Facebook and Twitter. A survey of your employees can be a good starting point, along with an online search for their names. When you have a clear picture of what your team is already doing, you’re in a better position to identify what you do need to discuss with them and perhaps even spot where they can help you.
From there, you should consider what your own social media needs are. If you need employees to monitor social media accounts or look for online commentary about your company, that needs to be a key topic for your policy: rather than listing out the things that your employees shouldn’t do, go from a positive approach and discuss the goals you’re hoping to accomplish.
You will likely find that there are at least some behaviours that you need to describe as not fitting the image you want to establish for the organization as a whole. Including such problem areas in your policy is a start, as long as you’re specific enough that employees don’t feel like they’re being faced with a long list of ‘can’ and ‘cannot.’
Don’t just send out a memo to your employees, telling them the company’s new policies on social media. Train them so that they can handle those policies. The more training you can provide, the less likely you are to have problems — or even need policies. An employee who knows that you want to use Twitter to seek out and address problems is more valuable than an employee who you have to monitor on Twitter on a regular basis, after all.