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Why all businesses need a social media policy and training

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Scott Cooper
2016-06-15

Setting expectations through a social media policy can benefit you and your team

Everyone is involved with some form of social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, we all spend some time every week checking up on our accounts and making sure our profiles remain up to date.

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5 years ago it was common practice for a lot of businesses to have restrictions on their employees’ computers limiting their web access to avoid social media becoming in a distraction in the workplace. But as everyone has a mobile device full of social media applications at their fingertips, this is must now be dealt with head on in the form of a social media policy and training program.

This issue of distraction isn’t the only thing that should be covered in your policy, there are a number of areas that need to be addressed to protect your business from not only productivity and legal standpoints, but from a PR standpoint.

In this article will take a look at a few key areas that should be covered in your training and company legislation to avoid social media being the cause of problems in your company.

Usage in the workplace

Setting expectations is one of the most important aspects of onboarding new employees. This sets the tone for what is expected of your new hires, and how they should conduct themselves in the workplace. The same goes for your social media policy.

If it is made clear that no social accounts are to be used outside of break periods throughout the day, your team members are aware that that should they be caught breaking the rules, they may be reprimanded and given an official warning for breaching workplace policy.

Before laying out any hard and fast rules about banning social media, have you considered how your team might be using it as a tool to help the company?

There are always exceptions to rules, and by using Twitter or LinkedIn you can actually find out a lot about a person or a company that you might be working with or looking to engage. Social media accounts can be a great tool for tracking down valuable information as well as communicating with your fan/user base and building your brand name via an online community.

If the expectation is set that the social tools should only be used if they are relating to a project, the team members are aware that if they breach the boundaries of the expectations that there could be consequences that could result in warning that in turn may lead to their dismissal from the company.

Views/comment on social media

We’ve all seen this happen before. An employee goes on social media and says bad things about their company and/or team resulting in the termination of their contract. It’s becoming all too common at the moment, but this can be stopped with some basic social media training.

Training programs, which can consist of outlining the the key points in your social media policy, are a great way to let your team know how you expect them to represent your brand online, and what they can and cannot talk about. Depending on your company this may vary dramatically, however, sticking to a core set of guidelines when referring to your organization can make a huge difference in your online presence.

To avoid any issues or confusion in this area, it is important to outline a number of details so that employees know how to refer to the brand, and when they should be referring to the brand when promoting to their personal networks.

These details should include:

  • Tagging official accounts
  • Hashtags to be used
  • Links to reference (to blogs or websites)
  • Images/Logos to be used from an approved image library

Out of hours posting

Employees are a reflection of the company where they are at work or home, and that it’s very easy to trace back a single employees’ comments to a company. Bad example of this are easy to find, but we’re going to take a look at one case in particular in Australia where an employee had his contract terminated by his employer, only to have it reinstated by Fair Work Australia due to insufficient policy on the company’s behalf.

Mr Daniel Starr was dismissed from his employment with the Department of Human Services as a frontline Centrelink officer where he had worked for 21 years. He was dismissed for alleged “serious misconduct”, arising on a number of comments which he made on two social media sites over a period of some years. The Fair Work Commission Ordered Mr Starr’s reinstatement.

Daniel made comments on a public forum berating another user around incorrect processing times at Centrelink.

“Yes, it’s utterly disgraceful … I have never seen it this bad (not even close). I encourage every single person to complain to your local MP. Maybe that way they will get the hint that more help is required. Despite Flick’s ridiculous assertions in this thread that most claims are processed within 21 days to a month, I can tell you that they aren’t even close to the end of February processing at the moment.

It makes me embarrassed to work there, my heart genuinely goes out to all these kids who are simply struggling (to put it mildly) and there isn’t a damn thing those of us in the offices can do about it”

Although Daniel was in breach of his company’s social media contract, the policy only covered employees during ‘work hours’ meaning that due to the posts being published outside of the workplace, Daniel had his job reinstated.

The lesson here; employees represent your company at all times including when they are outside of work hours, and your social media policy should reflect this.

Trust and eliminating risk

In an ideal world you should be able to trust your team to do the right thing when they are online, but unfortunately you can't do that when it comes to your business. While you should be able to trust your team to do the right thing on social media, having a policy in place eliminates any grey areas that can lead to messy dismissals and potential court appearances. By covering the basics of what and when employees can access and/or post to their social networks when speaking about their employer, you can eliminate risk, and set expectations which will only benefit everyone involved.

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