There is significant power in social media and digital communication that can be leveraged by businesses. I have seen trends and headlines make celebrities and break leaders. I have noticed incredibly inappropriate postings about tragic events in the news. And even if it’s not a from a company’s account, the reality of our new, hyper-connected world is that employees cannot separate what they post personally from the company they are representing. As my friend Mark DeMoss says,
Even without speaking, you are in PR.
a case in point
a walking billboard
The difficulty in today’s media-saturated world is aligning your company’s culture and values with your digital communication while maintaining integrity. Never before has this been more challenging, especially for large and diverse staffs.
While all businesses and all teams have varying focuses, challenges, cultures, and demands, it is important to establish baseline social media guidelines for your staff for two primary purposes: 1) to help set clear expectations and 2) to give practical examples to help your employees to know what is “in and out of bounds.”
Here are a few thoughts we have used at my company, Vanderbloemen Search Group, to consider as you establish your staff’s social media and email guidelines or revise your current ones.
Never speak negatively about other people or other organizations either in person or on social media platforms. It goes without saying that you always want to reflect a positive image, and tearing down others is never the way to accomplish that. Consider the fact that sarcasm can also come across as negative so choose your message wisely before posting.
When in doubt, delete.
Always be mindful of confidential or sensitive information. This includes being aware of your phone conversations. Never have a phone conversation about confidential information in a public area or in your office with the door open. Remember, only those who need to know personal details or information should be kept in that loop.
Assume that any email conversation could be published at any time for public consumption. When crafting an email that has to do with someone that is not included in the email chain, always keep in mind how they would feel reading the email exchange and if they would endorse the accuracy of it. This includes internal, interoffice messaging platforms and texting.
A picture is worth a thousand words. That has never been more true than now in the smartphone age where everyone has a camera with them at all times. Use discretion and good judgment when posting any image, but especially be mindful of those involving other people, alcohol, or questionable locations. Pictures can speak volumes and often if you have any questions about something it is probably best not to post it.
Exercise caution when tempted to post opinions on polarizing views, political views, or cultural hot topics. These issues come up so regularly now that it is imperative to know where your organization stands or if there is a statement or written policy in order to maintain integrity.
One final thought to consider: try not to let your social media guidelines become a list of “don’ts” where everyone is afraid to tweet or post. In that case, your silence speaks for you. Discern ways to empower your staff to promote a positive and impactful social media presence for themselves and your company. Look at other groups who are similar to yours who are doing it well, and make small changes to improve if necessary. If you need more help in this area, consider hiring a Communications Director as a staff resource who can add value and continuity to your online presence.
It’s never been easier for a business or a leader to be ruined by one thoughtless tweet. Put these guidelines in place with your team and safeguard your company against a social media nightmare.