The forgotten dangers of Social Media – are you prepared for your employees’ mistakes?

Embracing the world of social media in research, work as well as in my private life helps me to discover new and challenging tools, interesting topics, great campaigns and gives me helpful insights into today’s international marketing world. Nevertheless it is still quite astonishing to see how online-crazy our world has become. Everybody is always engaging in some kind of communication: whether it is checking emails on the way to work, posting on Facebook or reading the latest news on Twitter. Clearly, these enhanced communication opportunities also increase the possibilities for businesses. Social Media is great, but there is one crucial point that is often not taken seriously enough: Social Media compliance amongst employees.

Your online marketing strategy may be fantastic, you may be able to involve your Facebook fans and have lively conversations on Twitter, but what good is that when your employees keep giving you bad publicity, or even communicate in a way that’s destructive to your company?

Of course I am not proposing to start spying on your employees on Social Networking sites. But it is absolutely crucial to implement Social Media compliance rules into your companies’ confidentiality agreement and, most importantly, hammer home to every employee the importance of following your guidelines to the letter.

Negative examples of defamatory social media blunders are manifold: the Domino’s Pizza guy that snorted on deliveries and got published on Youtube, the employee that rants against ethnic groups on Facebook, or communicates his dissatisfaction with work. But, what are the points that need to be emphasized in such a confidentiality agreement?

First of all, get your employees to understand that they always represent you as a company: making offensive statements, posting nude party pictures, attacking other people will not only show your employees in a negative light, it will also darkens your own reputation.

It is up to you to implement general social media checks, but if you  tell your employees you are doing thisyour plans – this will give them an additional reason to think twice before actually publishing internal information or possibly defamatory content. Whatever they post, they should always bear in mind that you, as their employer, could read it.

Make sure your employees understand that it is always best to not say anything if nothing good can be said. Try to discourage them from so-called Twitter rants, especially when they openly communicate their affiliation with your company.

Also, it is crucial to emphasize the permanence of a digital footprint, that once it is online, it is — and will stay–visible. A great example of this is the Facebook timeline, which publishes all your posts of the last years – and forces users to recheck the appropriateness of their comments. I sure did.

Of course, a little extra publicity is always nice, but make sure your employees do not go overboard and start spamming their friends and followers with company marketing material. That might come across as being desperate.

In the end, make sure that your employees understand that abiding by your social media compliance rules is their own responsibility: not understanding privacy rules on Facebook is no excuse for publishing defamatory comments.

For more information please contact: Susanne Lehr, social media strategist. Susanne@mediawise.local