Industry Research

Social Media: What About Employee Comments?

Posted on November 11, 2009 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

Social media is a tremendous tool to reach people and keep your company’s name in front of potential clients. It started as a tool to keep individuals in contact with others. Web sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, and Twitter gave people the forum to communicate with the masses quickly and often. The idea of using it for business came later. The concept was to communicate with “friends” general information and photos. Some people today take it to extremes, telling everyone what they are doing every second of the day.

“I just saw a beautiful rainbow while I was driving to the Kroger to pick up Pepto for my kid who has,.oh you know.”

The lines of social media can easily get blurred when “friends” are people your employees deal with daily in business and your employees are espousing views contrary to your company’s philosophy. It’s difficult to differentiate the employee from the company when the employee’s Facebook page calls out the fact that they work for you. Statements made by employees on these sites may be construed as being made on behalf of the company. Is it possible to separate the personal from the professional in social media? Maybe.

It’s important to have a clear policy about social media use both at work and away from work in your company handbook. Employees can make inappropriate comments on their social media page. The problem occurs when they are in turn linked to you and those comments are counter to the views and practices of the company. There have been countless cases of employees who put disparaging remarks about their bosses on their Facebook pages only to be called on the carpet about it. Poor judgment by employees on social media sites can cost the company business.

Corporate Policies

Consider the following when drafting a policy regarding social media activity:

1) Disclaimer — Some companies ask for a disclaimer stating that the views are personal and not those of the company. Sites such as Twitter have character limitations in their messages and may not allow this to occur.

2) Eliminate the link to the company — If the employee is making political, religious or other views that may be offensive, the easiest solution may be to remove the fact that they work for you in their profile.

3) Stress Discretion — This seems to be the lesser of all evils. If your employees are aware that you are monitoring social media sites, they may be more careful with their posts. The web is permanent. It is tractable and traceable. It is also public; there is no such thing as private on the Internet. Ask them to think before posting.

4) Don’t “dis” the competition — Be clear that you do not want anything bad ever said about your competitors. This will stop your employees from feeling the need to defend the company on social media Web sites.

5) Explain the reasons for the concerns — If your staff understands why you are concerned about these issues, it will make it easier for them to buy into the need for it.

6) Take responsibility — Make your staff understand that they are responsible for the content on their social media pages and that the ramification for poor judgment with regard to their employment could lead to dismissal. Eliminate the gray area. This should be cut and dry. If the employee opts to participate and consequences occur you have a remedy.

7) Company confidential information is strictly prohibited — There should be no questions; anything that is company confidential cannot be posted. That should include information about your clients. Discussing clients on social media sites is a big no-no.

— Linda Jagiela, LCT Magazine

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