Facebook & Twitter: How employees can affect you and your business
Recently, a friend of mine asked me a question that has become a very common topic of interest for businesses, small and big alike. I got an e-mail saying that he was interested in the "best practices for putting out guidelines/codes of conduct for employees using social media." After some thought, this is what we have come up with.
There are quite a few things you might want to take into consideration when drafting guidelines for employees. Usually when it comes to larger companies, you want employees to be well aware of how they endorse you. They might think it's okay to represent your brand or logo by making it their "profile picture," or by posting a status about the company. This should only be done in good fashion if it is a company-wide way to get your name out. If that is the case, there should be prior notification via meetings or e-mail, announcing that the company would like employees to post about a specific event or announcement.
Unless you are using employees as a part of a marketing campaign, pictures and logos should not be represented as a profile picture-- simply because of this: I believe Marlboro had this problem years ago when an employee made the Marlboro logo his profile picture, and then had obscene statuses on his profile-- which depicts the company in bad light. They need to remember at all times that they represent YOU!
You might want to consider having all employees have some sort of privacy enabled, and give a seminar on how to use the privacy settings on Facebook. While this can protect them in many ways, this can also protect your company in the future. Especially, with new changes coming to Facebook and Twitter, it would be wise to make settings on personal profiles that allow the user to accept or decline tags where their name is mentioned.
If your company has a crisis team enabled somewhere (there should be at least some small department or code that says if a crisis is happening, here's who speaks to the media, here's what we do, etc), you should make sure this team is well aware of how Facebook and Twitter can be used to your advantage should a crisis appear. Whether the crisis is good (i.e. your company becomes recognized as one of the best for 2012), or the crisis is bad (i.e. your company is under fire because someone has been embezzling money), your crisis plan should implement social media. Taking full responsibility in the light of social media is a great way to gain the public's trust, and keep a good reputation. For more on crisis communications, click here.
Holding annual or bi-annual seminars on social media should be implemented, and employees should be well aware of their role on the internet. Many people tend to easily forget that anyone can see pictures, posts, and personal information if privacy settings are not enabled. This should not discourage anyone from using social media, but instead, should encourage people to be aware of how to use it-- especially when the reputation of your company could be at risk.