Are You Operating Without a Social Media Policy?
The opportunity for escapism was one of early social media’s most attractive offerings. At its 2008 peak, Myspace had lured 75.9 million internet users down a glittery, graffiti-graphic rabbit hole and into the depths of an HTML wonderland. Myspace was a place where every Alice♥ and XxMadHatterxX could build an altered life without becoming completely detached. Part of its charm, the aesthetic gaudiness of Myspace profiles obscured the user’s true self.
But it’s the nature of fashion to go out of fashion, and aging online denizens began to outgrow the flashy personas of their youth, instead skewing towards minimalism and a desire to join the world rather than escape it. By 2009, the pixelated reverie of Myspace was jolted awake by a social media site that had nearly quadrupled their amount of users––
With its stark white and blue layout, Facebook was offering a user-friendly interface that was appealing to adults; real-life, working adults who had never once logged onto Myspace other than to snoop on their kids. Facebook aimed to be a place where people could connect with their community and share things that were important to them. Among this new demographic, that meant having to navigate and cater to the various aspects of high-functioning adulthood, including careers.
As Facebook continued in its evolution, it was becoming something no social media website had ever been. Unlike Myspace, It was a host to a community that strived to be accurately reflective of the everyday lives of the people who used it; and unlike LinkedIn, it was a networking tool that deleted the space between work and life. Eventually, businesses and employers began taking advantage of Facebook’s networking power, using the site to create pages to promote services, inform consumers and even scope potential hirees.
Today, it’s rare to find a reputable corporation or organization that doesn’t use Facebook in addition to other sites like Twitter, YouTube, and Tumblr, but the blur of work-life balance created by this new media threatens the stability of business models that existed before the digital age, making the addition of a social media policy crucial to a company’s success.
Here are a few reasons why your business needs one:
Your Reputation Is On (the) Line
Your employees are the face of your business, make sure they not only know that what they post on their personal profiles could result in professional consequences, but the extent to which those consequences will be carried out. Privacy settings allow social media users some security, but nothing online is truly classified.
Sure, the handbook you passed out during the orientation is probably doing some overtime as a coffee table coaster and that mustard stain on the new guy’s khaki slacks is a one-off departure from the usual office decorum, but the reputation of your business will be seriously at stake if those sloppy mistletoe pictures, courtesy of a few too many eggnog-cognacs from the company Christmas party surface online.
Remind employees that the way they represent your brand is applicable across all platforms, not just those they have reserved for professional content.
Disclaimer: Personal Opinions
Because of the work-life overlap, it can often be difficult to separate the opinions of an individual from the views of the business or clients they are representing.
Having a social media policy is a way to ensure people know the MAGA hat in your employee’s profile picture is not part of the company dress code, and that yes, Donna does in fact still work in the accounting department, Restaurant City is just a game she plays on Facebook.
Avoiding this kind of confusion can be done by adding written clarification on your official website or social media pages:
“The opinions expressed by employees are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of XYZ Inc. or its affiliates.”
You might also suggest that employees preface such posts with “In my opinion,” or “I believe,” for the sake of preserving practicality in casual online scenarios.
Still, a disclaimer does not provide total immunity. Be clear about your company’s expectations for online etiquette.
Confidentiality Is Key
People share everything on social media. Everything. From baby photos to musings about their half-eaten breakfast, our presence in the online sphere has resulted in an unprecedented level of comfort with those around us. Of course, there are things that aren’t meant to be shared, like confidential or proprietary information about a business and its clients.
Discuss with your employees where these boundaries lie, and if possible, delegate a department or individual who can answer any questions regarding what can and cannot be shared with the public.
Much like in the world of social media, a business thrives when people work to facilitate open dialogue and a more productive environment. In addition to enacting a social media policy, provide the necessary education and training to create a workplace that encourages employees to value representation without compromising their individual expression.