Social Media Policy Protects Reputations
Social media policies have been around for a while, so by now, the writing should be on the app wall: If you don’t have a social media policy, it’s time to get one. When you think about it, we HR folks have come a long way when it comes to our comfort level with technology. You may recall that in the early days of email, the notion of personal correspondence during work hours set the alarm bells ringing. Then it was blogs: What might our employees – or even our customers – dare to say about our company to the world? HR policy-makers of the world, unite! Given that the new generation of employees has a reputation for living their lives publicly, and loudly, via the social networks, what steps do we as HR executives need to take to help protect their reputations, and our own? After all, every one of our employees represents our company in some way. When employees name their employer on LinkedIn or post photos and comments on Facebook, this potentially says something about our companies. Even when their association with the company is merely implied, we need to ensure that whether they’re checking in to a neighborhood restaurant or sharing a magazine article, they have the tools and knowledge to understand the risks and consequences of their actions. At Vibrant, we recently updated our social media policy (having found our less than a year-old effort to be already out of date), and I wanted to share a few best practices based on our experience. Have a little respect. Social media is by its very nature decentralized, so don’t try to control what employees post. Do, however, make sure that whatever they post is respectful of colleagues, clients, peers, competitors, friends, and – most importantly – those with whom they might disagree. Trust is key. Roll out a reminder to raise employee awareness of your policy or guidelines. Work it. Make the social networks work to your company’s advantage. At Vibrant, we encourage all employees to have up-to-date LinkedIn profiles; this helps show our growth within the professional community and also serves as a tool for our recruiters. We’re planning to hold social-media best practice sessions for our management, which not only helps them think about how to leverage their relationships for recruiting, but also to ensure they’re helping build the company’s profile and public image, and potentially their own. Twenty-six percent of our new hires last year came through social-media efforts, an increase from sixteen percent in 2010. Know your employees. We operate in the digital advertising space, and many of our employees are in their 20s and 30s. They have smartphones, they use FourSquare, they post to YouTube. Suffice it to say that these are highly connected individuals who engage frequently with social media, and we tailored our new social media policy to account for their typical behavior. With a different employee population, different guidelines might be in order – the key is to know your base, and make your policy work for them. Stay on Top of It. Social media moves quickly, so don’t take your eye off the ball. As I said, at Vibrant we found that the shelf life of our last social media policy was less than a year. So keep an eye on the new and emerging channels, engage with them yourself to gain first-hand knowledge, and attend for industry events that will help you leverage the opportunities and mitigate the risks of social media. As an HR professional in the technology/media space, I recommend connecting with your employees to be aware of their social media activity and any potential risks or liabilities. Just be sure to practice what you preach! Networking and employee activity within social media sites is here to stay. Hiding under the covers and hoping it takes care of itself is not an option for any of us. On the contrary – few things in our world move faster. Draw up the best policy you can, for now, and before you know it, you’ll be back at that drawing board all over again. Whatever your approach, be smart and proactive, and – of course – stay connected.