What is a Social Media Policy and why do we need one?

Social media

In order to discuss Social Media Policy, let’s start with where social media began, with the internet. 17 years ago, 1% of the population were online. Now, over 2 billion people are surfing the internet and nearly all of those people have a social media profile, or several. There are currently over 200 social media sites, and I bet you can only name a few.

The technical revolution is underway in this fast paced economy. Companies must recognise the need to adapt to the progress the internet is so rapidly making. Failure to keep up, results in major company casualties. Just look at Woolworths, Blockbusters, Kodak and Clinton Cards. If you learn anything, learn to keep up. I think this classic joke sums it up quite well!

With levels of engagement on social media only increasing and the way technology is developing, social media has become a part of your daily life. It is so easy to access the information you need and have the ability to connect with anyone in the world. This is now the norm. In fact some people reading this may have already checked their Facebook updates or Twitter homepage. This is great and even encouraged, but there are implications when it comes to social media in the workplace.

In my opinion your employees should feel free to tweet and post about goings-on at work. Using personal accounts to talk about work should be encouraged. Whether they are at home revelling in the excitement of a deal well done, or they are at work having just received a shiny new deck of business cards, let your employees feel like they can share these experiences.

You can expect positivity online when you create a brand ethos that is right for everyone. Only then can you really encourage the use of social media at work and about work. Here are some interesting facts that prove that this is a good idea and is already happening:

  • 80% of employees spend 56 minutes of their working day on SM (reported by law from William Fry in April 2013)
  • Workers who are encouraged to tweet, chat and like on the job are amongst the most productive (research from Warwick business school)
  • Your mind resets itself when you have a break to surf the web
  • 65% of employees said that social networking has made them more effective
  • 46% of employees say SM has sparked their personal creativity

[tweetable alt=””]What’s the worst that can happen when you let your colleagues write about your organisation on their social profiles? [/tweetable]Unfortunately there are risks involved with making social media platforms a part of the workplace. Ideally you’d like to think your colleagues have the sense that whatever they say on social media affects the brand and in turn themselves. So being negative only backfires.

 There are three key concerns that employers have about their employees using social media:

  1. Distraction from work tasks
  2. Exposing confidential company information
  3. Risk of brand reputation

There are three ways to avoid concerns becoming a reality:

  1. Inform
  2. Promote
    1. Responsibility – of individuals
    2. Credibility – of source
    3. Sensibility – of mannerisms
  3. Observe

These three points are the foundation of a Social Media Policy (SMP). As idealistic as it is that everyone loves what they’re doing and wants to tweet and post about how happy they are at work, it’s not going to be that way. But you can prevent this from happening by adopting a SMP.

The SMP is a corporate code of conduct given to employees guiding them in their choices of what to post online in regards to work. The SMP will outline certain expectations of the company when it comes to behaviour, language, confidentiality and honesty.

It is becoming a necessity to avoid putting your organisation at risk, so invest in training where possible to educate your workforce and make sure your SMP is positive and focus’ on what your employees can do rather than what they can’t do. Finally, remind your colleagues that you are aware of their social presence and are watching their online actions.

So what happens to all the people that hate the company they work for and think it’s a good idea to moan online about their job or even worse, their colleagues? Well, it doesn’t end well. The internet being a very open and loud medium will find its ways of biting you in the heel.

1. One lady forgets about adding her boss on Facebook and proceeds to complain about him. The result? She gets publicly humiliated. http://dailym.ai/1abHUzd

2. This site runs several feeds of common topics people are posting about. One thread is title ‘Who wants to get fired?’