I read a report by Forrester Research, Inc. Analyst Nick Hayes called “Revamp Your Social Media Guidelines To Govern Today’s Social Enterprise” (June 2014). Nick makes some excellent points about why it is so important to regulate social media.
At The Network, of course, we come at the social media issue from an ethics and compliance perspective; our social media training course “Making Responsible Connections” and our spot-on ethics vignette “Can I Tweet That?” are just two components many of our clients use to promote compliance with their social media policies.
Why is this important? As Nick points out in the report:
I couldn’t agree more. As I wrote in another blog, one of the biggest ethics and compliance challenges our customers express to us is keeping up with change, and fewer areas of business change faster than social media. But what really sums up the social media struggle for most companies is this: it’s tough to figure out how to balance the risks and rewards.
Like I said, social media moves fast. Be realistic; your customers are in the social media-sphere and I can almost guarantee your employees, vendors, partners and competitors are, as well. The rewards for social engagement are great if you execute well: you can deepen relationships with customers and greatly enhance your brand to your target market. But without guardrails, in the form of social media policies, employees, whether they are in customer service or marketing and acting on behalf of the company, or are acting as individuals, will not know where the line is and can inadvertently cause damage.
There are several reasons why all of your employees – executives included – require social media training. And that training shouldn’t just be about what you can and cannot Tweet.
3 Key Areas Your Social Media Training Should Address
That Your Social Media Policy is Not One Policy
Certainly all organizations should have a corporate social media policy, which outlines for employees specific guidelines on using social media professionally or in personal ways where behavior can affect the company. Employees should be required to read and attest to this policy, so you have an acknowledgement that they will abide by it. However, you may require other policies specific to social media, such as a “voice of the brand” social media policy, which is for employees like marketers or those in customer service who use the corporate social accounts. This policy establishes company ownership over the accounts and pages, and the standards of behavior the company expects of those acting as a company spokesperson.
There are also other policies in your company that should include provisions for social media. Compliance and HR policies, such as anti-bullying, sexual harassment or discrimination, or those outlining what company information employees can and cannot disclose publicly, should include clauses that are specific to social communications.
Where The Policies or Guidelines Can Be Found
It may seem obvious, but your social media training should tell employees where to find any relevant policies. The Forrester Research chart below, from the aforementioned report, reveals some interesting statistics. The top three answers to the question “To the best of your knowledge, in which of the following corporate documents/sites do you explicitly address your company’s social media protocols and guidelines today?” are all policies. But where do those policies live? Many organizations have invested in compliance software, which acts as a “one stop shop” for employees, so they can find compliance training, their Code of Conduct and any relevant policies in one place. Other companies are still leveraging their intranets.
The Consequences for Policy Violations
As I wrote earlier, employees should be required to review and attest to your corporate social media policy and be aware that the company is regularly reviewing social activity. Your policy or policies that address social media behavior should also be clear about how the company enforces the policies and the consequences for violating them. Consequently, your social media training should cover these as well.
For some violations, perhaps removal of social media privileges would be a sufficient punishment but others would be terminable offenses. Social media carries great risk; the consequences should be aligned appropriately. The key is to make sure employees are aware.
Most experts advocate performing regular audits of your social activity and the controls you have in place, at least annually. Given the amount of risk involved and how frequently things in the social media world are changing, you should comprehensively review your policies and training so ensure you are remaining current.
How does your organization work with social media? Do you have one policy or many? How do you train your employees on social media?
For More Information About Social Media Training, Check Out These Resources:
- Blog: The World Cup: Social Media Training Separates the Winners from the Losers
- Blog: Four Reasons Why Employee Social Media Training Is Essential (Hint: It’s Not Just About Compliance!)
- Blog: You Tweeted What?! Common Sense Guidelines to Drive Effective Social Media Compliance Training for Employees
WEBINAR | Compliance As A Marketing Imperative: Building A More Resilient Brand
In this webcast, Compliance As A Marketing Imperative: Building A More Resilient Brand, Nick Hayes, Security & Risk Analyst at Forrester Research, will discuss your role in this rapidly changing business environment, and offer practical recommendations for what you can to do re-position compliance as a competitive advantage, adding to the depth and value of your brand.