By Jessica Vollrath, Vollrath Associates, www.vollrathpr.com
Imagine an online world where every one of your – and your clients’ – employees are a brand ambassador, posting positive messages about your organizations and their services on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
However, employees’ online musings are not always so rosy, and crisis-control situations have arisen after employees have posted everything from confidential financial memos to personal-life dramas to complaints about their clients and superiors. Countless companies have suffered what has now been deemed "The Domino Effect" – named after the corporate social media nightmare when a YouTube video of two Dominos employees disgustingly assaulting food blazed like wildfire through the Web 2.0 universe.
Following horror stories like this, many organizations are reacting to social media in different ways to prevent employee postings from wreaking havoc on their company’s public image and customer relationships.
As many as 40 percent of institutions, such as the United States Marine Corp and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, now block social media sites altogether, yet the repercussions of such censorship can be extremely regressive. Not only are employers stifling the development of new technology skills that can help individuals in their organizations organically market to millions of users, but a new study from the University of Melbourne shows that occasionally surfing the Internet for fun actually increases employee productivity by 9%.
As a better option, firms should turn to their communications departments to develop internal employee Internet guidelines that curb potential crises by setting clear expectations and monitoring them.
Although the tone of these guidelines may vary according to a company’s culture and current relationship with the public, it is important they find a balance between protecting employees’ freedom of speech and protecting your brand.
Here is a sampling of possible guidelines an organization could ask of employees:
- Be Cautious: If there is a doubt that the information you are posting may be confidential, please obtain approval beforehand.
- Add Value: Posting content with thought leadership elements is encouraged! It helps position us as experts in our field.
- Stay Honest: Be transparent and forthright about our company and your roll here.
- Be Accurate: Make sure your posts are accurate before they are public, and correct erroneous posts if needed.
- Be Responsible: Remember, posts are public content and may be monitored by anyone, including your supervisors or law enforcement. Make sure you are willing to be accountable for your activity.
- Be Proactive: If negative posts about our organization are encountered, positively address them or alert the proper individual of their presence.
- Be time-mindful: Like any other personal activity at work, limit the time you devote to your personal social media accounts while on-the-clock.
Finally, if an organization deems necessary, these guidelines may be coupled with monitoring. There are dozens of free Web sites that allow one to search social media posts for key words, such as socialmediamention.com and yacktrack.com. An organization may also opt to pay for a service, such as Cyveillance or Cision, to monitor their social media mentions from employees as well as customers.
If your company or one of your client’s companies is delving into the Web 2.0 world, consider developing a strategy to guide employees who will be representing their brands online everyday. A communication plan in place now is better than a crisis plan enacted later!