During a lively technology talk last week with a group of hedge fund CTOs and IT Managers, the topic of social media policies came up. Several group members expressed concern over whether they should be tracking (and potentially limiting) their employees’ activity on social media sites.
Whether you are a small start-up or an established firm with hundreds of users, you should take the time to consider what your company’s position is on social media and the extent to which you want to regulate or restrict employee activity.
Not sure how to determine what kind of social media policy, if any, to implement? Ask yourself these questions:
Do you think it is appropriate/necessary for employees to visit social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter during work hours?
Do you consider your employees to be representatives of your company when they are online?
Do you think it is the responsibility of the employer to limit or control what employees are able to view when they are at work?
If you choose to take action in controlling what sites your employees have access to, you will first want to create an acceptable use policy that outlines the restrictions and guidelines around social media usage. If you don’t put your policy in writing, you will have no way to enforce it.
Determine to what extent your social media policy will control employee activity. Will all social media sites be completely blocked on office computers or will select employees have access? What about personal devices? Design a policy that will clearly and specifically outline what employees can and cannot access when it comes to social media.
Offer a list of best practices. Assuming you haven’t chosen to completely block social media sites at work, you could choose to offer employees a list of best practices. This will help to ensure the best possible representation of both employees and the company. Here are a few examples:
Be Courteous. Whether in the actual or a virtual world, your interactions and discourse should be respectful. Online, your “avatar” should dress and speak professionally. A community site is a public place and you should avoid embarrassing yourself, the company and community members.
Write What You Know. If an employee is a subject matter expert and enjoys writing about a specific topic, it’s hard to be boring or get into too much trouble writing about that. On the other hand, if an employee publishes rants about clients or fellow employees, it has a good chance of hurting your company’s relationship with these individuals.
Don’t Write Anonymously. If you comment publicly about any issue in which you are engaged in your capacity as an employee, even loosely, you must make your status as a company employee clear. You should also be clear about whether, in such commentary, you are speaking for yourself or as a company representative.
Remember that Quality Matters. If you are not design-oriented or have issues with spelling, punctuation, etc., ask someone to proofread your work and offer advice on how to improve. You do not have to be a great, or even good, writer to succeed at this, but you do have to make an effort to be clear, complete and concise.
There are Consequences and Repercussions. Using your public voice to criticize or embarrass your company, customers, co-workers or yourself is not only dangerous and risky, but not very smart. It is all about judgment; be cognizant that what you post is permanent and searchable, and there could be consequences for your actions (as outlined in your company’s social media policy).
In addition to creating a social media policy, it is essential to offer employee training to support your endeavor. Teach employees about what is and is not appropriate as it applies to their online behavior and social media activity.
Finally, if you’re serious about monitoring and tracking the social media activity of your employees on a regular basis, you may want to consider investing in a social media monitoring program or application to assist you. A program like Socialite, for example, allows you to manage your company identity and track users across multiple social media platforms. With Socialite, you can prevent data leakage, manage access and controls on various sites, and even capture and archive posts and comments.
Ultimately, it is up to you and your compliance department to determine the scope of control and restriction you want to impose on employees. By putting everything in writing – and maintaining consistency across the company - you can set the framework for an effective social media policy that maintains the integrity of both your company and your employees.
Does your company have a social media policy? How did you determine what content to allow/block?
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