How much control is too much when it comes to social media?
Organisations spend millions on their marketing campaigns in the hope and expectation of raising brand awareness and increasing publicity. However, one seemingly innocuous tweet sent by an employee has the potential to give an organisation all the publicity and attention they could ever want – just with the spotlight focusing in the wrong area.
Managing employee usage of social media is a growing concern for organisations worldwide. Many social media platforms give users the option of stating where they work. If an employee decides to share this information, their behaviour could be considered reflective of the who they work for. The information could provide an insight as to what kind of people that organisation hires and what they find acceptable, thus reflective of their morals and culture. Essentially, this gives employees the leverage to make or break a brands image. This topic is just as important whether or not an organisation has a social media presence too – effectively, their employees create a presence by the virtue of their own online activity.
In 2013, a single tweet ended Justine Sacco’s career as Communications Director of the New York-based internet empire IAC. She posted the tweet before boarding an 11 hour flight to South Africa, which received over 2000 retweets whilst she was in transit – she’d become an internet phenomenon before she’d even landed. Justine was subsequently fired by IAC, a move taken in order to protect their own brand image.
Sacco’s story is an extreme case, but the incident has become a byword for the need for people to be cautious about what they post on social media. However, seemingly innocuous posts could still do a lot of damage to an organisations brand image. Complaining about working conditions could deter future applicants; posting sensitive information could affect the company strategically; and general online behaviour could reflect badly on the company’s culture.
Many social media users are now keen to highlight the fact that “all views are my own”, however these kind of disclaimers will not prevent your employer from firing you if you say something that reflects badly, and it’s not going to prevent people from associating your views with your employer.
Social media policies are being introduced throughout organisations large and small, and we’ve listed a few things to consider when creating these policies:
- Creating a safe space for employees to speak about concerns goes a long way. Having an outlet for discrepancies within the organisation reduces the chances that employees will express any negative information online.
- It is worth defining what is considered to be confidential/sensitive information. The assumption that all employees will generally know this is a dangerous assumption to make.
- It may also be worth discussing involvement in illegal online activity. Warn employees against engaging in any illegal activity. Remind employees to respect others’ copyright, trademarks when online for both personal and professional reasons.