Risk Management Blog - ClearRisk

Social Media Policy: Avoiding a Death-Blow!

Posted by Craig Rowe on Tue, Mar 23, 2010 @ 14:03 PM

A company’s reputation is its biggest asset! Successful companies have always guarded their reputations at all costs. Corporate communications have always been very structured and deliberate and the messaging meticulously controlled by dedicated professional spokespersons. That was before blogging, Twitter, Facebook and all the other new social media that gives all of your employees and customers a soapbox and a bullhorn with a global audience!

You’d be hard pressed to find someone these days who can argue against the impact that social media has had on the way that we conduct business. From customer support and advertising to internal controls and knowledge sharing, social media has changed the way we work and has changed the expectations of customers.

As we try to better understand how to use social media to our advantage, it’s important to consider managing the associated risks. We need to ensure that employees know the Dos and Don’ts and the potential impact on the company and them of going "off script."

Employment services leader Manpower recently released a study showing that only 29-percent of organizations in the Americas had set policies and procedures governing their employees’ use of social media. It’s pretty safe to say that more than 29-percent of these companies are using social media in one way or another to add value to their operations.

A social media policy, much like many risk management policies, is a simple way to inform employees on what to do to act in the best interest of the company and its stakeholders. To help you create your own policy to make the most of social media, here are the key elements of the ClearRisk social media policy:

  1. Purpose: What are the company’s social media objectives? Why is it important for the organization to manage its use of social media?
  2. Respect: You should encourage your employees to always communicate on behalf of the organization in a way that is respectful and receptive to different viewpoints. This will help the company to be seen as approachable and open.
  3. Know your Audience: Employees should be aware of the scope of social media. A statement online can have an immediate global impact. It is important to always know who you’re talking to and who many be listening.
  4. Value: Just as your products and services need to provide value, so too does your involvement in social media. Employees should be encouraged to always remember to listen, be receptive, responsive, helpful, accessible and approachable.
  5. Once it’s out, it’s out: Anything posted online is accessible by anyone with an internet browser. It’s important that employees know that they are to be responsible for what they post on the internet. Content requiring a non-disclosure agreement or considered to be company proprietary information should not be published online.
  6. Honesty in Identity: Putting a face or name to an online identity can be extremely valuable in lending credibility to what you post online. Linking your name, organization, title and contact information to online communications can not only help people to feel a connection to what you have to say, but it will allow them to learn more about you and to have a way to connect with you.
  7. Responding to Criticism: Gone are the days where companies can ignore the negative comments being made about them, their brand, or their products. And honestly, with such a wealth of feedback available to us on the internet, why would you want to ignore it? The benefits of being open to online criticism are twofold. Not only do you benefit from learning what others think about you, but it provides you with the opportunity to respond to the criticism and show a global audience that you are listening to what they have to say, that you’re receptive to their concerns, and that you care about what they think.
  8. Attribution: It’s important to ensure that employees have the proper permissions to use any content created by someone other than themselves. Whether it’s research, media or simply an idea, employees should always make sure they have permission to use content and that the proper credit and attribution is given.
  9. Business Outlook: There are all sorts of laws about what can and can’t be said about a company. Talking about revenue, future product ship dates, pricing decisions, roadmaps, unannounced financial results, share price or similar matters can get employees and/or the organization in a mess of legal trouble. Employees should be told to stay away from financial topics and predictions of future performance.
  10. Company Time: Time spent managing online activities should never interfere with an employee’s contribution to the organization’s core competencies or with commitments to customers.

As with any risk management policies, it is important to review and update your social media policy regularly. Social media is evolving quickly. New ways of communicating, new social networks, and new trends in best practices are emerging every day. Just as they present new business opportunities, they also bring new risks. Keep your policy up to date and delegate someone within your organization as the contact to whom your employees can go with any social media-related questions and issues. For a full sample social media policy, see the Company Guidelines on Online Public Discourse from the ClearRisk Manager Library.

You may also be interested in our article Blog Opportunities and Risk Management.

photo via sxc.hu user svilen001

Topics: social media, understanding social media, win business with social media, avoiding social media disasters