It’s no secret that keeping up with the latest and greatest in social media can be a real challenge for small business owners. On one hand you’re trying to use social media to spread the word about your business, and on the other you also have to keep an eye on what your employees are doing and saying on their own profiles.
Reputations are made and lost with the click of a mouse, and there are increasing examples of litigation against employees who have use social media in damaging ways against their employers.
Social media is here to stay and an outright ban on employee use of it isn’t realistic, so how do you protect your business from ending up in this situation?
1. Harness It
Embrace social media and use it to your advantage – as an example, ING Direct ensures that all of its employees have Twitter accounts and provides guidance on how to use their accounts to reach out to customers in a positive way. Similarly, your employees can build great customer relationships with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other platforms.
Be sure to ask your employees for suggestions about how to use social media in more creative ways to enhance your business opportunities. You might be surprised what you learn.
2. Encourage It
Offer incentives for employees who bring in new business using social media. Ask employees to pass along social media mentions of your company or other staff members to you, and respond accordingly.
Also consider allowing the use of text messaging in moderation. A ban on texting will likely send your employees to the bathroom or supply closet more often. Instead, monitor productivity and have open discussions about the impact of overuse.
Additionally, you may consider encouraging employees to collaborate online in a space exclusive to your business. There are many inexpensive, easy-to-use online tools that allow you to build an internal social platform for problem solving, creativity, project management, communication and recognition.
3. Put Boundaries Around It
Have a clear, positive and concise social media policy in writing. Check out examples of other business’ policies online, consult with employees, define what counts as unacceptable use of social media, and spell out the legal and security risks of misuse, along with the consequences.
Your social media policy should be part of your hiring conversations so that every new hire knows from day one what’s considered appropriate in your business. And of course, you can check a potential hire’s online footprint to evaluate how they have previously used social media.
Don’t assume that people will default to “common sense” when using online platforms. It is important that you clearly lay out for everyone what your expectations are when it comes to social media. Remember to have your employees sign a document that says they have read and understand the policy, and that they have been fully informed about its implications.
Better Safe than Sorry in Social Media
If you have built a positive, supportive environment in your business and your employees are engaged and happy, you should likely have little concern that they will misuse social media in a way that will damage your business. However, a solid social media policy is essential today and will fit in with your written policies and procedures for employees.
When it comes to employee use of social media, it’s better for your business to stop trying to swim upstream. Go with the flow, but keep a keen eye on where you’re going.