business, customers, Marketing, Social Media

Don’t Get Caught Without This!

Internet usage policy

I recently worked with a group of educators who told me how little time they had to really focus on their social media strategies. I had to agree, educators really are busy since most of their day is regulated by ratios, and that leaves them with very little time to sit down and start posting and tweeting about activities and news; but they were all horrified when I told them that even though they were not taking the time to engage people in conversation on Facebook and Twitter, their parents and PTO boards were out there talking about their teachers and programs.

Now it doesn’t’ matter what industry you in, if you are running a business or organization, people are talking about you online, through posts, tweets and reviews, people are having a conversation that can be viewed by hundreds, even thousands of interested viewers.

“So what can we do?” they asked. “How can we stop this?”

“First,” I told them. “It can’t really be stopped, but it can be controlled. Where you start is with a Social Media Policy because it just might prevent you from a disaster!”

By its very nature, social media has risen in importance with how we interact with our friends, associates, customers, and prospects. It is our front porch, the lobby of our business so to speak.  It has also given us the ability to become experts in our field, thought leaders. And it is very important to encourage your employees, interns, vendors, and even customers to engage in social media communities and groups, but without guidelines and a firm ethics policy in place, you might get caught up in a situation that could destroy your reputation.

Don’t believe me? Well think about the AFLAC Duck for a moment. For several years we were listening to the voice and quack of comedian Gilbert Gottfried. It was Gottfried who created that whole campaign with his signature sound, but when he tweeted one thoughtless joke about the Tsunami in Japan he was fired. In an instant his years of creating and being identified with the AFLAC Duck were over. AFLAC went into crisis mode. “Gilbert’s recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac,” Michael Zuna, the company’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement to CNN. He was done with one tweet.

And for the small business owner who doesn’t have such a celebrity to help build your business, think about this for a moment: one employee makes a statement that is thoughtless, disrespectful, or racist…and you could be hiring an attorney and a PR firm just to get out of the flood zone of lost business. Make it easy on yourself and your employees: Put a policy in place.

Here are some simple guidelines to get you started:

Start with all the DO NOT’s

  • Do Not share confidential information.
  • Do Not use the name of a minor with a photo.
  • Do Not misrepresent yourself or the company.
  • Do Not lie.
  • Do Not make personal attacks, complain, or speak negatively about the company, employees or competitors.
  • Do Not post personal, political or religious views.
  • Do Not post anything that is not in line with the company core mission.
  • Do Not use the name of our business as part of any internet identity.

So now, let’s encourage people to join in the conversation and spread the word about how great your business really is and list the DO’s:

  • Do disclose that you work for our company, especially if you are creating content about our industry.
  • DO disclose that you are acting as a company representative when talking about our company, industry, product line, or program.
  • DO think about what you are posting first, then post it.
  • DO ask questions if you are not sure about what is acceptable content.
  • DO inform your boss or owner of any potential problems, complaints, reviews, or negative information that you find online about the company or one its employees.
  • DO have a list of keywords to help everyone stay focused when writing content.

Be sure to include this in your employee handbook and make sure that violating anything here is grounds for termination. And also, have in place a policy about “friending” clients and customers on personal Facebook/Twitter accounts.  Yes, its OK to tell your staff that they cannot friend your business customers.  I have found it is actually a relief to most employees to say “No, you cannot be my Facebook friend because it against our company policy.”

And if you have a Board or PTO? Well then, I guess you had better have a social media policy for them too. Protect them, protect your business too.  It just makes sense.

What challenges have you had in putting together a Social Media Policy?  How do you enforce it?

Image: Shutterstock

Posted on My LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/mariabereket/

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