When Employees Use Social Media, Protect Your Brand

building brand

A nightmare scenario that keeps business owners and in-house marketers up at night is that maverick employee who creates embarrassing scenes on his/her personal social media accounts.

While we tend to think that “reputation management” has to do with external sources, employees can, in fact, do a lot of damage to a firm’s reputation if things are not managed.

Here are six practical tips to help keep employees from making you guilty by association.

  1. Have a written policy. Employees should understand your expectations for their social media communication when they associate themselves with your firm in their profiles or communication. I’m not an attorney, so I won’t give specific advice — other than that it’s wise to consult an attorney regardless of your firm’s size.
  2. Promote your policy. Firms have a tendency to publish a policy and thing the job is done. Not so, and especially in the realm of social media, since employees may use social media on a daily or even hourly basis. They need both understanding and reminders to keep them from stepping over the line.
  3. Manage personal social media communication liberally. Don’t expect to be able to “control” what employees do on their personal social media accounts. It’s just not realistic. There are certain things that are clearly out of bounds, such as divulging company secrets. However, if an employee wants to publish a photo of himself wearing a lampshade at a New Year’s Eve party, there may not be much you can (or should) do about it. Pick your battles carefully, or you’ll be skirmishing all day long.
  4. Manage company social media communication more conservatively. When employees are communicating from your company social media pages, they should conform to your expectations. If they go overboard because of bad judgement or out of hostility — shame on them. If they slip up because they aren’t aware of your expectations — shame on you. What’s important, though, is to make your policies conservative enough to protect your legitimate business interests, yet liberal enough to give employees latitude for self-expression and a personal touch. Social media is a social platform. If communication is stiff and stuffy, it will probably backfire.
  5. Have a company-account social media content strategy. Too many companies tell employees, “Hey, we’re on Facebook now; start using our page.” Well of course, if you leave people to their own devices as far as what to say and how to say it, you’re creating a recipe for disaster. It’s imperative to articulate what information your company wants to convey, and a style guide for how to convey it.
  6. Have a personal-account social media content strategy. Your content strategy may be to discourage employees from making any mention of your business on their social media accounts. However, you can approach it in a positive way and ask employees to share information that promotes your brand. I think the best way to do this is to be selective. For instance, if you publish a press release of broad interest, email the link to your staff and suggest they tweet it, post it on Facebook, etc. The key is to ask: requests go much further than demands.

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