Social media is an undeniable player in the modern business world. Whether it is being leveraged for marketing efforts or simply considered a channel for customer engagement, social channels can no longer be ignored by organizational leaders. A study by eMarketer found that by the end of this year nearly 90 percent of marketers for U.S. businesses will be using social media for some form of marketing.
The social platforms that these leaders use are continually expanding. Now both a commonplace for the general public, social media serves as an opportunity for organizations to deliver the best of their personalities. Yet in the seemingly fun and bubbly world of “social,” business enterprises with competing interests are at play, making it paramount for decision makers within organizations to properly address and regulate its usage.
Did you know that employers can be held responsible for their employees’ use of social media outside work? Or that employee leaks of company information on social media channels are becoming an increasingly common phenomenon?
“Social media is an undeniable player in the modern business world.”
Legal, Marketing and Beyond
According to Inside Counsel, organizations can be “held vicariously liable for legal and regulatory issues arising from their employees’ social media use, such as defamatory or discriminatory social media messages to harassing Facebook comments or tweets.”
Today’s professionals (looking at you, millennials) often tie their employer information with their personal social media accounts. In fact, social sites readily encourage users to publish where they work. Facebook usually highlights the gap in work information, prompting users that a percentage of their profile is “incomplete” due to a lack of employer information. This makes organizational liability possible on external devices and on personal accounts.
Beyond liability issues, it is also important to have company in social media for the sake of consistent messaging and brand accountability. So, whether you are looking at social media through a legal lens or a marketing one, it is critical to ensure your organization has legitimate social media policies for employees and the supporting training. Let’s take a look at some typical social media blunders.
Failure to Track: Without policies, many companies fail to track the influx of customer engagement on social media channels. From Twitter mentions to status comments, businesses MUST be on top of engagement, especially when these interactions are negative. Brandwatch reported on a study that over 50 percent of customers expect an answer to their questions on Twitter within an hour. That figure only regards normal questions. If a question involved a complaint, that number rises to 72 percent. Policies dictating acceptable response rates and expected degrees of monitoring should be established.
MUST be on top of responses, especially when they are negative. Brandwatch reported on a study by Lithium Technologies which found that over 50 percent of customers expect an answer to their questions on Twitter within an hour – when the question involves a complaint that number rises to 72 percent. Policies can help dictate acceptable response rates and expected levels of monitoring.
“Content needs to be created with all audiences in mind.”
Overposting & Underposting: Poor posting frequency is a frequent mistake. Luckily, it is something that is easily remedied with the proper training and policies in place. However, hit “post” with caution. Both overposting and underposting can lead to audience members hitting the “unfollow” button, explained CIO.
“Instead of posting for the sake of it, companies should actively listen to what their audience is interested in and post relevant content that is up to date and that sparks meaningful interaction,” said social media manager Nicolle Hiddleston, in the CIO article.
Inappropriate Content: Content needs to be created with all audiences in mind. Posting inappropriate content on social media can be detrimental to a business’s reputation. Whether it is an improper joke or an NSFW image, companies need to make sure they set some strict parameters for what does and doesn’t qualify as appropriate.
No Policy in Place: The number one mistake organizations make when it comes to social media is failing to have a policy in place at all. All of the issues mentioned above could have potentially been prevented with the proper policy and training. Social media means every move your business makes is in a real-time spotlight. This fact should not be taken lightly. Don’t make the mistake of failing to address the potential pitfalls of our social media-driven world.
“Companies who fail to provide guidelines for how their employees should conduct themselves online are dealing with a ticking time bomb,” explained social media strategist Brandon Harig, according to CIO. “By establishing expectations of how employees represent themselves online, both during work hours and after, brands not only help educate their staff on potential problems, they create a fallback when someone goes too far.”
Best Practices: Policy and Training
In order to effectively safeguard against these common mistakes, organizations must begin by creating a comprehensive policy. But what types of things should this document cover? It’s useful to think of social media as a set of specific guidelines. This means outlining preferences for privacy settings, discussion points, conduct, and confidentiality, explained Hootsuite.
Leaders must sit down and have a conversation about what is and isn’t acceptable on social media. Can employees mention competitors? What can they share about company products and what needs to remain internal only? The key here is to be as specific as possible. Cover as much ground as possible with this official document and ensure it is distributed to employees new and old.
“Leaders must sit down and have a conversation about what is and isn’t acceptable.”
Training also constitutes an important part of this process. Organizations should hold some level of social media training for employees. The degree of intensity will obviously depend on how often a given business interacts with the social media realm, but there are some general best practices for this kind of training that all companies should use:
Training also constitutes an important part of this process. Organizations should hold some level of social media training for employees. The degree of intensity will obviously depend on how often a given business interacts with social media, but there are some general best practices for this kind of training that all companies should use:
- Roleplay: One of the best tips for any training program is to take the training and apply it to a real-life scenario. This method can help your trainees better absorb the materials and understand what your social media policy looks like in practice. Try creating a few mock examples. Ask your team to explain what they would do in these given scenarios and then review what was right or wrong about their decisions.
- Frequency: When it comes to social media training, recurring sessions are absolutely critical. Social platforms change their settings on a regular basis, after the initial induction training leaders should set up regular update sessions, explained Mashable. “Social media education should be ongoing and evolving as the industry changes,” Justin Levy, senior communications manager at Citrix furthers.
- Written and Verbal: Social media policies and training guides are often complex. There are so many different platforms with diverse rules. Training materials should be presented in a variety of formats. From verbal and interactive training to hard copies of the materials for reference, make sure your team has all the necessary tools at its disposal to safeguard against missteps.
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