By now, if you don’t understand the huge impact social media is having on our society today, then you must be living under a rock. For millions of Americans, social media is a prevalent part of their personal and professional lives. And many small businesses are learning to expertly leverage social media as an effective marketing tool. Which raises a tricky question. How do you manage personal and business communications in this new medium?
You want your team to be a social media cheerleader for your company’s brand. That’s important. But the combination of business and personal often collides in the social media space creating a minefield of problems.
Job applicants have been warned about the risks of potentially compromising content floating around in Cyberspace. But now, businesses of all sizes are faced with risk from an employee’s personal conduct via social media. Not only can casual comments cause embarrassment and/or damage your brand, but the potential for all types of litigation is significant.
Social media provides a platform whereby employees can communicate all types of things that are clearly forbidden in the office. For example, they can bad mouth a client or divulge confidential information. Sexual harassment claims can easily arise from one employee stalking or making lewd comments about a co-worker. What if one of your employees bad-mouthed your business operations on his or her social media profile? Whether or not it was true, it could put your business in jeopardy.
While it is impossible to manage the social media beast entirely, it is important to create a social media policy for your team and make sure it is communicated clearly. For starters, everyone on your team, whether an employee or independent contractor, should know not to say anything about your business, customer, competitor or co-worker they wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard or the front page of the New York Times. Additionally, it is important that your employees don’t post comments that are not in sync with your company’s core values.
I discovered an employee’s blog on MySpace bad-mouthing his boss. In other posts, he discussed how hung over he was and how he didn’t feel like working. I printed the offending blogs out and met with him privately. His face turned bright red and he apologized a million times. He immediately took down the offending posts. In this case, no serious damage was done to my business, and I can assure you he never made that mistake again.
Social media should be an important part of your small business marketing mix. But you do need to monitor it and establish policies for appropriate use. For assistance in developing your social media policy, check out Social Media Governance.