Becoming a social organisation should be one of the big goals for businesses today, but speak to any boss and one of the big headaches is how to work with employees and trust them to use social media in an appropriate way.
After all, Jo from accounts might keep her Twitter account for personal, but if her Linked In profile makes it clear who her employer is, it can be hard not to be concerned by tales of her Friday night exploits if they reflect negatively.
It’s important to recognise that control is not the aim of the game when it comes to be a social media-friendly organisation. Everyone has the right to be on the different platforms, so - just like with customers - the key is to listen to what is being said and to be part of the conversation. The way forward is set out basic rules of behaviour within general terms and conditions and to equip employees with guidelines so there is no ambiguity about what is and isn’t acceptable.
I approached one of the UK’s leading experts in social media, Rachel Miller of http://www.allthingsic.com (@AllThingsIC on Twitter) to get her top tips on developing and sharing a social media strategy.
Rachel said: “One of the first steps is to identify your approach thorough choice of language. For example, think about the difference between the word policy as opposed to guidelines. Policy could be perceived as a threat and guidelines opportunity. You have to decide what fits with the culture of your organisation.
“Critically, it’s important to remember that social media is something that is done for not to employees. The same is true when creating your social media policy. As such, the approach I champion is to create flexibility within boundaries.
“If you’re wondering what this means and how to do this, here are a few pointers that hopefully illustrate what I’m trying to say:
• Involve employees at every stage; from setting guidelines, to communicating and refreshing them
• Trust and encourage your employees to do the right thing using social media - rather than assume they will do the wrong thing
• Clearly outline expected behaviours (including defining what your organisation means by the ‘right thing’)
• Be explicit about the boundaries and accountability – for individuals and the company
• Detail the consequences of employee actions. Both good and bad
• Give them options when it comes to channel use
• Identify your ambassadors/super-users and work with them to self-regulate your social networks and develop guidance
• Have an open dialogue with employees, seek their views and commit to continually update your policy.
“That last point is particularly important. Social media moves at a particularly fast pace so regularly review your policy with employees to ensure relevancy, accuracy and to reflect current trends.
“To my mind, you cannot over-communicate social media guidance internally. You should be evolving documents that equip employees for success. Ensure your workforce know from day one what they can expect when it comes to social media use by including it in your induction process so it’s clear from day one.
“Ultimately success will come to those who understand that this is not a one-way conversation. All companies and their employees have their own views and expectations when it comes to using social media. By having an open and transparent conversation upfront and continuously, it is possible to avoid misunderstandings, which avoids stressful, time consuming and potentially costly issues in the long run.”
Rachel provides sound advice and her words are well worth considering for organisations trying to become social and engage with customers and stakeholders in a more direct fashion. If you’d like to see what type of guidelines other organisations have in place, Rachel has collated over 300 and these can be found here: http://www.allthingsic.com/smpolicy/.
Social media is here to stay and the organisations that will thrive going forward are those embracing the channels available to them. Do it right from the start and the benefits will be there for the taking.