We all know someone whose “tweet” was seen by the wrong person, and we’ve certainly heard stories of employees who posted something on Facebook that got them into hot water at work.
It’s almost impossible to go online these days without interacting with some form of social media. With each interaction, most folks think about their personal online reputation, but what about the company they work for?
We all know what’s appropriate at work, and what we can and can’t say and do around our coworkers. But when we’re off the clock, and away from the office, the rules change. We may have 9 to 5 professional lives, but we can be our social media selves 24 hours a day.
Many social networks have places to list your employer, and, on websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, you can even “fan” and follow companies. When we list a company as our employer, does that mean we should be considered a spokesperson for that company? Do the views and opinions we express (regardless of the subject matter) reflect those of our company?
The quick answer is: it depends. Some companies take an authoritarian stance on their employees’ use of social media, adopting policies stating that no employee can list their company in a personal profile. For those that allow employees to list their company name online, they may state that unless indicated as an official source of information for the company, employees’ opinions are theirs, and theirs alone. Other companies have no social media policy, or may not care until, of course, a problem arises.
Smart companies know that problems don’t go away if you ignore them. And with more and more businesses (and consumers) going online, social media is definitely something every company should take a pro-active, rather than reactive, stance on.
Now, I’ll leave you with one final thought to ponder. Like mastermind Dom Cobb says in the blockbuster film Inception, “We need to go deeper.” Social media policies may consider employees, but what about outside parties like vendors, partners and contract laborers? Does a comment about you from someone who doesn’t directly work for your company fall under your social media policy? The plot thickens …
In closing, there are no easy answers to the social media conundrum, but there are some important first steps to take. For starters, take some time to think about your social media policy (or lack thereof) and go deeper. Do some research. Talk to other companies about how they handle it. Most importantly, create a policy that works for you and your employees and stick to it. Good luck!