Smart companies stress education, transparency, legal liability, and company goals and values
In 2009, 8 percent of American companies reported that their online reputation had been damaged by employees’ social media activity. Needless to say, employers are quickly realizing the importance of harnessing their employees’ social media use. In response, 29 percent of American companies have developed formal social media policies for their employees.
Policies vary in length and specifics, but the most important result is that your employees understand the power and consequences of social media participation. When employees are properly trained and provided with engagement guidelines, companies avoid online controversy and leverage employees as genuine brand ambassadors in the online space.
To help your business establish a policy of its own, we’ve outlines six great examples of employee social media policies.
1. Kodak — The importance of education
The initial focus of Kodak’s social media policy is to clearly define the social media landscape and why it is essential to effective brand and reputation management. To that end, Kodak’s policy provides a brief description of popular social networks and includes user statistics for each platform — one of only a handful of policies that break down each network in this way. Employees often find such breakdowns extremely helpful. Kodak also explains how the company uses each network and why.
After all, each social network is different, and successful engagement tactics tailored to one might not work on others. By educating employees about each individual network and the role it plays in your online image, you can help them realize the best practices for both personal and professional engagements on these sites.
2. Yahoo — Risk v. reward
The overarching priority of Yahoo’s blogging policy is legal liability. In its policy, the company explains the legal implications of engaging online, including a rundown of all possible offenses. It is particularly important for employees to understand the scope of liability for their actions. Damaging tweets can mean legal trouble not only for the author, but also for his or her employer. In order to prevent such consequences, Yahoo provides advice and insight on best practices.
Although it is important to inform employees about the ramifications of posting content online, encouraging them to engage in a productive manner can be an important tactic for improving your brand’s status online. Yahoo expertly strikes a balance between caution and empowerment. By offering advice on what they should do, you can help employees to engage safely with a digital audience.
3. Coca-Cola — Get employees on the same page
In its social media policy, Coca-cola takes a break from all things digital to reinforce its traditional company values and brand identity. The soft drink conglomerate recognizes that consistency is crucial when building and maintaining brand equity. In order to create a strong, cohesive image, the same message should be broadcast across all channels.After all, social media is simply another venue for disseminating messages to consumers and online audiences. Coca-Cola stresses that any posts associated with the company should convey the brand’s “positive, optimistic spirit.” This brand truly understands the importance of ensuring that employees know what your brand is all about before enlisting them to be your online ambassadors.
4. Kaiser Permanente — Building community
Kaiser recognizes the communal nature of social media, as evidenced by its blogging policy. Above all else, Kaiser Permanente stresses to its employees that they need to “know fellow bloggers.” The company provides tips in its employee social media policy on how to identify which peers to engage in the online space, demonstrating Kaiser’s recognition that successful social media initiatives must involve two-way conversations. As a result, Kaiser’s employees understand that social media is about offering value to others.No company can be successful if its social initiatives simply push out information with no reactive or responsive component. It is only by actively engaging and building relationships that companies fully capitalize on all that digital media have to offer.
5. Bread for the World — Set goals, be strategicThis nonprofit emphasizes the need for a well-defined strategy in its guidelines. Bread for the World clearly defines what it wants to achieve through social media in its goals section, which is the first thing employees read. The nonprofit even illustrates an online communications model for employees that demonstrates how the organization’s multiplatform strategy is designed to accomplish its goals. The company’s social media policy is dedicated to educating employees about communications strategy to help ensure that their actions fit within this overall model.Corporate social media engagement should always center on a goal or purpose and should not be done simply for its own sake.
6. General Motors — Encourage transparency
GM is an industry leader in educating its employees about the importance of transparency. GM’s policy makes it clear that all employees must identify themselves as GM employees, regardless of whether their comments mention the company. This transparency requirement is universally applicable, whether an employee posts content on his or her own social network channel or when he or she simply comments on others’ posts. In addition, GM requires its employees to issue a disclaimer that clearly states that personal views do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.
The issue of transparency has become increasingly important, particularly since the FTC issued its guidelines for online communicators. It is no longer simply unethical to withhold information about what company or product you represent, it may also be considered unlawful. Thus, you need to ensure that your employees are aware of these guidelines and comply with transparency standards.
Dallas Lawrence is Chair of the social and digital media practice at Levick Strategic Communications, the nation’s top crisis communications firm. He blogs about emerging digital media trends and best practices for social media engagement on BulletProof. Connect with him @dallaslawrence.