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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, 1859).
That sentiment sums up the state of social media today quite nicely.
When used wisely, social media can be a wonderful tool that can help you connect with and turn your customers into fans. It can significantly widen your marketing reach and exposure in ways you’d never have been able to afford back in the days when we had only newspaper, TV and radio ads. And, it can help you track emerging trends, keeping your finger on the pulse of what your audience and potential audiences are thinking and feeling.
But, just as social media giveth, social media can taketh away. When used foolishly, by you, your employees or others affiliated with your company, it can become a destructive force that can cause you to lose customers and ruin your business. A single misstep can be amplified into a crisis, the evidence of which will live on indefinitely.
Even if you aren’t actively using social media to promote your business, that won’t necessarily protect you against the dark side of the force. The off-duty behavior of people affiliated with your company can boomerang back on you and bring a metaphorical torch and pitchfork carrying social media mob to your business’s digital doorstep. Whether it’s an employee’s drunken rant caught on video that goes viral or an employee boasting about dangerously mistreating those you serve, if you haven’t prepared yourself to respond properly and swiftly, you could bear the brunt of behavior that seemingly has little to do with you.
This is why you need a social media use policy.
Taking the time to create a social media use policy provides you with the opportunity to:
- think through how you want your business to be represented online;
- educate employees and provide guidance about what is acceptable online conduct, what isn’t and the consequences of misconduct; and
- document a plan for how to handle a crisis, if one occurs.
If you’re not quite sure how to go about crafting a sound social media use policy, there are some great resources available to help you with that. There are lots of templates that you can customize for your business or use just to get ideas for drafting your own policy. Be careful to use policies that pass legal muster. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has had a few things to say about social media use policies over the years. There are some instances in which employee speech on social media is protected.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a sample social media use policy that has been approved by the NLRB.
Using social media wisely begins with some basic common sense. But because there are so many ways to use it foolishly—such as disparaging competitors, customers or coworkers, sharing confidential information, using inappropriate tone or language—to name just a few, it’s necessary to clearly articulate a social media use policy for your business. Doing so can help to ensure that your business enjoys the best of times and avoids the worst of social media.
May 31, 2019 at 10:16PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs