We eat corporate policies for breakfast – used to providing core policy suites We discuss the issues around using social media in the workplace on a day to day basis Through this combination discovered a need for Australian organisations to have access to social media policies with a basis in Australian legislation I am not a lawyer – I manage BlandsLaw and its social media strategy. This is not legal advice – disclaimer – it’s intended as a discussion to get you thinking about social media policies and their function in the work place.
This presentation will endeavour to cover off on the basics of social media policies , hopefully after which you will be convinced that all organisations need a social media policy.
First of all, why does any organisation need to have a social media policy? This is a debate I have regularly and there are still those who will say “we don’t use social media” or “I trust my employees to use good judgement” Just a word about “good judgement & commonsense……..” In fact I’ve had the comms director of a large well know Australian company say to me “we don’t need a social media policy; there are only a couple of us in the company using social media ....!” The main point I want to make here is that even if you don’t have a social media strategy social media is being used by your employees. The main difference with social media as opposed to traditional media is that is the democratisation of the dissemination and access to information: it’s a many to many bottom up conversation, not a one to many top down conversation. Your employees, or key stakeholders, will be using social media whether you know it or not. Social Media is not going away – we are in the midst of a communications revolution that will fundamentally change the way we do business and you either adapt or disappear. Even if your organisation is not actively using social media as part of a strategy to engage, some of your employees, customers and suppliers will be. Again, the point to understand is that more and more people are engaged and active in social media – what is your organisation doing to manage this activity? How do you manage this? How do you know what is being said about you? How do you engage and educate your employees to manage the various risks around using social media in the workplace? What’s the ROI?
Protecting your interests
That is, you don’t want to have to wait for lawyers and corporate comms or CEO’s to be approving content and on-line engagement each time you need to post something. It’ll be too late. You need to enable your employees to engage online as things happen. It is worth spending a lot of time setting up a policy that allows real time communication.
Just some images to get you thinking Why I think - &quot;Guidelines such as 'don't be stupid,' 'use common sense,' 'stay positive,' are not the most useful approach to steering representatives or consumer experiences,&quot;
A social media policy quite simply provides guidance to employees as to how they can confidently engage in social media, with the express permission of the organisation. By giving employees guidance around how they may use social media in their professional capacity, you are reducing the risks of inappropriate and possibly damaging use. Most employees who get into trouble on social media are not deliberately trying to sabotage the company or their jobs; they simply don’t understand how to use social media and it’s very public nature. This is the single biggest risk management issue. A social media policy gives you the opportunity to lead and steer the conversation among employees and key stakeholders.
A five minute search on twitter
A social media policy encapsulates your social media strategy into a document that can be used to inform the organisation. By providing clear policies and guidelines you are effectively freeing your employees to use social media to the advantage of the organisation.
We know that the younger generations coming through the workforce simply expect to engage on social media at work – they’ve been brought up on it as part of the way they interract as gen x’ers were brought up using the telephone. Stats demonstrate that when employees understand the public nature of social media, they use it appropriately.
Ok, so where do you start in writing a social media policy? What do you need to consider?
Who in the organisation will be in charge of social media? You need to have directed leadership, preferably from the top, to drive the development and implementation of a policy. Put together a “social media team” – marketing director, comms director, HR Director, corporate governance, legal counsel, IT department Define the purpose of the policy – a communication tool, a risk management device, a training tool, a PR document? Start by incorporating the companies social media strategy .
Social media accounts – is one person in charge of opening them, passwords, naming issues and ownership ie if the account is in the employees name, do they own it? What happens when they move companies? Refer to existing company policies eg bullying, harrassment, discrimination Aim to keep the document as succinct as possible Use language that reflects the company culture Appropriate use is the most important part – needs to cover areas such as confidentiality, privacy, honesty, accuracy, respect and fair use and also any necessary disclosures and be up front about any prohibited forms of communication. Confidentiality can be complex – eg do you use Foursquare to check into a sales call? Need to define what’s “appropriate”. Will be different for different industries. There are also regulatory issues to be considered eg pharmaceutical and banking industries. Summarise with a one page guidelines document that sits as a first page of the policy. Note about guidelines – very different to a policy. Budget: social media is not free. The expense involved is mainly a time one, either your time, or someone elses’. You will also need to consider in your budget, the services of professionals such as a solicitor, a strategist, some PR and possible website upgrades. Do you wish to monitor employee use of social media? Have you inserted the correct clauses into the policy regarding monitoring? Crisis management – if things do go wrong, direct employees as to how to handle it. (CLICK) Training: you and your employees need to be trained, on an ongoing basis regarding the use of social media (CLICK) Monitoring: If you havent already, you need to consider monitoring. This means monitoring what is being said about you or your company or your products. You may needs to also consider monitoring your employee activities in regards to social media, but you need to advise them of this firstly. (CLICK) Crisis Management: just like an OH & S or other policy, what is going to be your companies reaction to a ‘crisis’ if it happens. By crisis, I mean things like twittering or blogging etc about inappropriate topics etc etc. These types of crises are few and far between but it is worth giving some thought to what you would do in this situation.
Each individal issue is going to be more or less important to each individual company, you need to consider these issues and what you most important areas of concern are. Think about and write down some issues before visiting a lawyer.
Firstly, Ensure all employees have read and understood the policy – can do this in a variety of creative ways. Eg using YouTube or ipads during induction programs and other social media platforms. This is a good opportunity to engage employees in a discussion about how they can add value to the organisation – regular discussion groups Implement internal social media platforms such as Yammer – stats show that organisations, such as Deloittes, who use internal social media have higher retention rates, greater employee satisfaction and less risk management issues due to a good understanding of social media. Implementation should be considered as an ongoing, regular process. Social media and its’ technology platforms are changing constantly and policies will need to reflect these changes.
www.blandslaw.com.au Vivienne Storey, General Manager The Importance of a Social Media Policy in the Workplace