Welcome to the era of Socialism in Communication. While social media is liberating brands and opening up new grass-roots level channels for connecting with the consumers, it is also posing new challenges for companies in terms of managing and controlling all that free flowing external communication. While wide social media participation offers innumerous advantages to companies and brands it also requires constant monitoring and the need to provide clear guidelines to all participants to protect both the employees and the company. Companies are struggling to achieve the balance between liberating the employees and avoiding all the risks and pitfalls of unmonitored conversations.
While I was researching for this blog post I came across four different attitudes that different companies seem to have toward social media participation by their employees or members. Here is how I categorize their approaches:
4 Corporate Approaches toward Social Media Participation
- Companies that encourage/embrace employee and member participation and provide broad guidelines primarily to keep the employees and the company safe.
- Companies that provide basic guidelines for liability control by clearly delineating the responsibilities of the organization and the individual.
- Companies that discourage and forbid employees and members from using company resources or references in any kind of social media/external communication.
- And then there are companies that don’t care (yet) and handle social media on case by case basis.
12 Tips for Corporate Social Media Policy Guidelines
- Corporations should include social media policies in their general business conduct policy and guidelines.
- Encourage employee/member participation that is transparent and prohibit covert solicitation.
- Companies should set forth clear limits and a list of “don’ts”.
- Companies should set forth a process for dealing with deviant behavior and mistakes.
- Social Media Policies should be vetted by legal experts to control liability and risk.
- Guidelines regarding Copyright, IP and Confidentiality, Privacy and Conflict of Interests should be included.
- Companies should include a disclaimer about individual’s view points and that it does not represent the company.
- Explain the rights of individuals and policy of the company to delete posts, preview content and moderate comments.
- Set forth policy on disclosure by employees that they work for the company.
- Be clear on the company values about racism, respect and offensive language.
- Stated guidelines should include a requirement to seek permission before publishing internal communication.
- Set forth guidelines on employee conduct/behavior during crisis situations.
Corporations are navigating the new marketing channels and getting acquainted with a new set of ground rules, culture and expectations. Some social media debutants quickly find their voice and style by understanding the paradigm shift from total control to open engagement, while others are still struggling on basic decisions.
Whatever the approach to social media, companies need to deliberate and articulate their policies to avoid potential legal and public relations disasters.