i’m judging you.

I’m judging you.

So is he. So is she. So are they.

When you or your employees post to either personal or collaborative social media accounts, your institution’s personality receives instant exposure, automatically opening you up to criticism, misinterpretation and commentary. Examples of social media gone awry populate Mashable, Google and Yahoo news pages leaving both large and small business leaders alike wondering how to avoid repeating these high-publicity social media faux pas.

In this day and age of constant scrutiny, we receive instant and, at times unfavorable, feedback on our status updates and activities. The best brand image to showcase to shareholders, prospects and customers is always a consistent one. While there’s no guaranteed methodology to sidestepping these disasters, initiating
a dialogue with employees and instituting a general social media policy and crisis plan will greatly improve your chances of uninterrupted social media success.

begin the right conversation

If poorly handled, your social media policy will either turn into an overly tyrannical productivity nightmare or a legal entanglement from you-know-where. However, when you take the right steps and begin with an open dialogue, your company’s social media not only becomes clear, but a helpful guide that entices your employees to become active social media engagers and influencers:

  1. Your employees are adults. Treat them like it. No one enjoys restrictions without reason or expectations without education. Many older employees may be unfamiliar with social media etiquette, strategy or activity; several younger employees now must transition to posting purely social, and often unfiltered, content to posting content that retains authenticity, while still indicating a capable, professional persona. Before creating your social media policy, host a dialogue with employees. Discuss their views on the topic. Educate them on online behavior styles and their pros and cons. Dialogue with them on how they want to see their own and the overall corporate online personalities defined, and allow them to take ownership of the policy and the resulting social media.
  2. Keep it real. Social media is literally everywhere these days. Life is, to a certain extent, more “posted” than “lived.” It’s a saturated environment and even less savvy users can identify overly restricted policies from a mile away. When you develop your organization’s social media policy, create it more as an etiquette guideline, rather than a list of do-not-do’s. Engage with employees on social media. Share their triumphs individually and as team members and invite them to interact organically without stringent limitations.
  3. Appreciate what makes you unique. Different companies have different corporate policies, social media consumer interaction styles and social media ROI goals. When creating your policy, take into account your company’s unique needs and your employees’ personality. Don’t over populate your policy with restrictions that leave employees overwhelmed or over anxious about their personal interactions. At the end of the day, although it may impact your business, your employees’ social media identity is their own and, in the long run, unrealistic restrictions may only adversely impact their portrayal of your organization through either no or negative commentary.
  4. Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst. Crises happen. Employees may mis-tweet as your organization instead of themselves; customers post anger-fueled complaints against you; or messages meant to remain private may accidentally receive pubic visibility. You can’t predict the worst, but you can plan how to react to it. Make sure you and your whole team understand how to react in a crisis situation, and make sure those reactions are quick, complete and honest and that they authentically fit your brand voice and lay the groundwork for future success.

use your noggin

At the end of the day, social media use just comes down to being strategic (ie. being smart). Effective social media monitoring systems can prove difficult to maintain and laborious to monitor. If you don’t have the manpower to maintain a close eye on all employee activity, across all social media channels, adopt instead a social media policy built on dialogue, sharing and trust that still covers all the basics of good social media judgment. Discern the best angle from which to tangle your organization’s policy by investigating your company’s unique social media opportunities, or for an even more strategic perspective, enlist the help of an objective, third-party expert.

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