Social media #socialmedia has become the focal point of marketing for all business. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media channels have proven themselves a highly effective way to reach customers and prospective customers for very little money, and more importantly, engage those customers in a dialogue that promotes your brand, and lets your followers promote your social media brand for you.
You can’t control what other people say about your brand #brand, but you can use your own resources to tout the benefits of your company and its wares in a way that promotes a positive online conversation. That means that every employee needs to be an online brand ambassador.
Of course, you will have employees #employees who require social media access as part of their job, but you need to prepare everyone else in the company to understand the rules of social media engagement. If you don’t, your employees could compromise your company’s online reputation, or worse.
At one time, the simple solution was to block everything. It’s not difficult for the IT department to limit employee access to social media websites, just as they would block access to pornography or gambling sites from the company network.
That approach may protect your company #company network from malware, but it no longer blocks social media access from work. Employees are using cell phones, iPads, and other devices to check Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and social media sites.
The practice of bring your own device (BYOD) #BYOD actually encourages employees to access company resources using their own mobile hardware. If your employees are going to access social media from work, then you need to enlist their help to promote your brand in a secure way. The best approach is a combination of cooperation and coercion.
Most businesses have a clear set of written guidelines for employees, explaining how they need to conduct themselves online, with clearly defined consequences for those who fail to obey the rules. Here are a few social media guidelines you might consider to protect your brand:
– Do not share confidential company information. Make it clear that employees should never post information about company projects, customers, or coworkers. Have employees sign confidentiality agreements with a clear explanation of the rules and remind them to keep company secrets.
(Consider the case of the excited salesman who used LinkedIn to post about the killer proposal he was working on for a named organization – the competition saw the post and the bid, and the salesman got fired.)
– Avoid starting online arguments. Remind employees that it’s bad for to participate in online arguments. No one ever wins when the trolls come out to make trouble. Instruct employees not to participate or make inflammatory statements that could affect the company, but rather report the online offense to a supervisor to see if action is necessary.
– Be sure that whenever they post about their company, employees identify themselves as company employees. Online transparency is very important, so you need to be open about the fact you are talking about your employer.
– Obey all copyright laws. Never post images, music, videos, or articles that are protected by copyright laws without permission. This is especially true when posting on behalf of the company, since the company could be held liable for any copyright infringements.
– Explain how they CAN use the company name. Establish positive, clear guidelines about how employees can use the company name.
– Remind employees that the Internet is forever. Anything you post to the web is truly indelible and can’t be taken back, so remind workers to be careful what they say and resist that temptation to post those wild photos from the company Christmas party.
– When in doubt, don’t. A good rule of thumb it to encourage employees to pause before posting. If they are not sure about making a statement or posting content, then ask someone before they post.
– Provide proper training. Understand that you can’t control employee behavior online, so provide proper training to show them the dos and don’ts. Give a social media orientation to all new employees, and be sure to give refresher orientation presentations regularly to remind employees of their responsibility as keepers of the online social media brand.
– Outline a set of disciplinary measures for violators. Be sure that employees understand that there are consequences for breaking the rules, including possible termination.
Social media can be one of your best channels for attracting new business. And since you can’t control employee’s behavior online, your best approach is to arm them with the information they need to be effective online advocates. Proper training can make every employee part of your online marketing success story.