In my article last month, I discussed the new frontier of Web 2.0 and the importance of customer engagement, communication and finding your focus. This month, I would like to share the guidelines that your staff can use to shape their posts around the company strategy. (Note: the following suggestions are general in nature. Please adhere to your state’s HR laws and seek legal counsel as needed.)
Your employees should use their posts to build a reputation of trust among clients, media, and the public. When they are reaching out to others on social media sites, they should take every opportunity to build a reputation of trust and to establish themselves as a credible and transparent representative of the company.
When participating in any online community, your employees should disclose their identity and affiliation with the organization, clients, and professional and/or personal interest. When posting to a blog, they should always use their real name, not an alias.
When creating posts and content, your employees should be direct, informative, and brief. They should never use a client’s name in a posting unless they have written permission to do so.
Give Due Credit
If your employees post copyrighted materials, they should identify the original source. This includes sources for direct or paraphrased quotes, photos, videos, and anything else they did not originally create.
Your employees should always evaluate their posting’s accuracy and truthfulness. Before posting any online material, they need to ensure that the material is accurate, truthful, and without factual error. This includes doing a spell and grammar check on everything. Remember, content never disappears entirely once it’s been posted. Should your employees find an error, have them correct it promptly. Since transparency is key, have them admit the mistake, apologize if necessary, correct it, and then move on.
Make sure employees know that they are responsible for what they post. Negative or questionable posts will not be tolerated. Additionally, while what they do on their own personal pages during personal time is their business, what they publish on those sites should not be attributed to the company and should not appear as endorsements from the company. If they choose to list their employer on a personal social network, then they must regard all communication on that network as they would in a professional network. Online lives are ultimately linked.
When posting comments, employees should refrain from writing about controversial or potentially inflammatory subjects, including politics, sex, religion or any other non-business related subjects. The tone of their comments should be respectful and informative, never condescending or “loud.” Additionally, they should avoid personal attacks, online fights, and hostile communications. If a blogger or any other online influencer posts a statement with which your company disagrees, your employees can voice their opinion, but not escalate the conversation to a heated argument. Instruct them on how to write reasonably, factually, and with good humor.
Employees should never disclose proprietary or confidential information. This includes product.
Obey The Rules
All employees should follow local, state, or federal laws and regulations; the company’s internal rules (typically found in the employee handbook); as well as the rules established by each social networking venue. Ultimately their online activities will be a reflection on the company.
Propel Your Message Forward
Today’s Web 2.0 tools are great for business building, provided that your employees know how to use them for the company’s ultimate benefit. Therefore, determine why your company is using social media sites, and then let that purpose be known throughout the entire organization. Additionally, implement clear social media guidelines that employees can follow, and you’ll have the people, processes, and tools you need to further your company’s mission. Ultimately, when employees know how they are supposed to use today’s Web 2.0 tools, they can do so with focus and purpose, leading the organization confidently into the communication age.