The use of social media is firmly embedded in the daily routine of almost everyone. If you own a business, promoting it using social media can be both a risk and a competitive edge. But do you have a well thought out social media strategy with supporting employee policies to ensure your business is not at risk?
Planning a social media strategy
In our opinion, your social media strategy should complement the work you are doing on your website and other promotional tactics that you may be using to help you achieve your sales and marketing objectives.You should regularly carry out research and be very clear of your target markets so you can choose the best social media platforms for your business. As a rule of thumb, LinkedIn works best for B2B marketing, whereas Facebook and Twitter and other platforms perform better for B2C markets. Albeit most platforms that sell advertising have features that allow you to profile audiences by job titles, related interests, and other financial and geographic data.
When we work with our clients we plan content for the website that is likely to generate good social media engagement and link to the full article on their website. We also use social media scheduling software such as Hootsuite, Buffer and TweetDeck etc to make it easy to plan ahead. This is interspersed with posts about current events or breaking news.
Social Media Policies
Most companies now also have company social media profiles that they ask staff to follow in the hope they will re-share news to their network. This can be a huge business benefit as it can significantly increase the reach and sharing of the post, but it also a risk if you do not have an appropriate social media policy and an embittered employee turns to social media to vent their grievance.
This is where membership organisations and social clubs should be especially careful. There are many examples where disgruntled members have used social media to vent their anger and damaged the reputation of the organisation.
I am a member of a social club, where one of the committee members complained about how the club was being run on their personal social media account. As an official of the club the committee member was bound by the Club’s social media policy. But as this had not been communicated to members no-one knew of its existence. The member was excluded, and a lengthy appeal process ensued. Because the post had been shared on their own personal account the member argued freedom of speech. Yet the club argued that the member was bound by the social media policy. Whatever, the outcome of this litigation, there are no winners when these disputes take place as the post had already been seen by thousands, so the reputational damage had already been done!
Developing an employee social media policy can be a minefield because it has to be comprehensive in order to stand up to legal scrutiny, yet not too broad or detailed that it is not fully understood. Employee rights and privacy issues are also a major factor.
There are also productivity issues to consider. For example, if you are going to encourage staff to share your news, they will need access to their phone during the day. This may mean allowing them to also use their phone for personal use, which opens up the risk of abuse, and poor productivity.
We are not legal experts, but if you google social media policies there are plenty of advice articles which fully explain all the pitfalls you should consider. These are the main regulations you must consider:
- Human Rights Act 1999
- Computer Misuse Act 1990
- The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
Having written your social media policy, it can be a section of your employee handbook, or a stand-alone document. The important thing is that you ensure your staff understand and agree to it.
The policy should also be clear on the following:
- Why it is important to the business that they share content
- How they should share content
- If you expect them to add their own comments, the guidelines for what they can and cannot say
- Any restrictions needed to prevent them from sharing internal news or confidential information
An emerging issue regarding the use of social media for business is the question of who owns social media accounts and the contacts that are gathered as part of a social network – the employer or the employee?
It is generally accepted that an employer may not claim an employee’s social media contacts (i.e., LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends or Twitter followers) when the employee leaves the business.
Your policy should be mindful of this, especially as this is an easy way to inform your competitors who their new employer is going to be. Your social media policy should be appropriately worded to protect your business if this is a potential risk. In they are serving gardening leave fro example, you may state that they cannot update the name of their new employer for a set period of time after their leaving date.
Having an official policy helps to remind employees (and members) to use common sense when it comes to social media, and acts as a reminder that their online activities can have consequences for the themselves as well as the entire business.
As technology is changing so rapidly, it is also very important to ensure the policy is regularly updated and that staff are reminded of their responsibilities.
If you need help planning your social media strategy, please contact us.