Social media has become one of the most popular double-edged swords in today’s world of technology. On the one hand it is a valuable free resource for companies to incorporate in their marketing strategy due to its global impact on a wide range of demographics. However, on the other hand social media is the largest poster board in the world for employees that want to vent and rant against their employers and open their lives for everyone to view.

What started off with MySpace as a unique way to connect with old friends and family members has significantly grown into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many others. Each one offers a different twist and function to appeal to users of all social media preferences but the end result is still the same. Any reputation can be made or broken in an instant and spread like wildfire with no way of being able to undo it. Understanding the power of this tool and having a company policy for employees is essential to safeguarding the future success of your business.

The Power of Social Media

Just about everyone that has access to a phone, tablet or computer is on at least one type of social media platform so companies have no choice but to consider and address how this affects their business.

Look for warning signs of employees that could potentially speak out against the company. The easiest ones to spot are those that are continually complaining to others around them about practices or policies. Take the opportunity to sit down with them in private and find out what their complaints are and how the company can help re-motivate and address the issues. Low employee morale can be challenging enough to handle in-house but once it hits the Internet you know have a larger problem to deal with.

Disgruntled employees love to vent and what use to be limited to conversations around the water cooler or at the family BBQ are now posted for hundreds of individuals to view, comment on and re-post so that even more people are exposed. The speed at which negativity spreads is impossible to stop which is why you need to have a solid preventative plan in place before this happens. Expectations need to be clearly advertised and understood by both sides in order for measures to be effective.

Update Your Policy

If you don’t already have a social media policy then you need to quickly get one set up or update the one you do have to ensure that it meets the following guidelines:

Be strategic

It is important to ensure that your social media policy focuses on letting employees know that you are interested in protecting your brand not becoming the ‘social media police.’ Individuals will quickly rebel if they feel that their 1st Amendment right is being infringed upon by their employer and will find ways and reasons to go against the policy.

Policies should always be structured in a manner that brings the employer and employees together for the good of the company because without a successful business everyone suffers. Mutual respect for boundaries and relationships is a great way to address the issue and to let employees know that you value their input when constructively given.

Make it reasonable

Your employees are not marketing experts nor are they a viable advertising tool so it is necessary to ensure that your policy does not put them in this position. Employees have personal lives and will make comments about work that may be flattering or negative based on the day they had but that does not mean that they have crossed any lines.

The purpose of the social media policy is to let employees know where the boundaries and define the limits without coming off as overbearing and legalistic. Human nature is not going to change because of a piece of paper but laying out what is considered proper etiquette and what is deemed as unacceptable can go a long way to establishing open communication with the labor force. In some cases, individuals don’t think about the results of their comments until after it is too late because they were never educated that it might be a problem. This is why having an updated social media policy can prevent issues before they start.

Offer social media training

Training is one of the key factors in any company to give employees the tools and knowledge they need to be successful within the organization. Social media training is something that can easily be conveyed to employees in a fun and constructive manner. Not only will they learn how to use different platforms and be taught the policy but you may be surprised to find that they become willing promoters of the company because of the positive experience.

Expect respect and restraint

Respect is something that is earned and when you give this to employees then it becomes easier and reasonable to expect it from them in return. There is no way to completely prevent social media issues started by employees but laying out the expectations in a policy ensures that they understand the limits and what will incur company action. Once they are aware of this then you can hold them accountable.

Updating your policy is a great first step but the important part is to ensure that every employee is aware of these changes and expectations so that there is adherence and accountability. It is also good business practice to review social media sites periodically along with the policy to make sure that you are keeping up with new trends in technology. Whether you have a dedicated resource or someone who is computer savvy with the ability to take this responsibility on, it needs to be a delegated function that is accomplished regularly so that any problems are caught early on and addressed.