Managing your employees’ use of social media can be a challenge. Sage People Advice experts explore how getting it wrong can lead to disciplinary action and damage to your brand; however, getting it right could prove invaluable to your business’ social profile and improve relationships with your employees.
Some of the UK’s biggest employers have been in the media recently for taking action against their employees’ social media activities. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has disciplined and sacked their employees for misusing social media, while the DVLA have suspended staff for the same reason.
For these companies, a basic policy of banning all social networking, using sites like Facebook and Twitter doesn’t seem to be working. Recent research has found that nearly half of UK businesses have the same blanket approach to banning social networking.
Trust comes from trust
Many of these companies find that this trust encourages their employees to post responsibly and appropriately. It’s worth remembering that Facebook and Twitter are great tools for attracting business, and your employees may be using social media to find new customers, among other things.
Make your policy count
What’s clear is that whatever method works best for your company, a clear and concise social media policy is essential.
Even if you have an outright ban on social media at work, your business reputation could be at risk from your employees.
Firstly, anyone with a smart phone can send a tweet within seconds, so it’s almost impossible to prevent that from happening on your premises.
Next, even if you can stop tweeting at work, you can’t stop an employee from posting an update from the privacy of their own home.
But by including a social media policy within your existing company rules, you can state what your employees may and may not post about your business, regardless of when and where it’s done.
What to include
For instance, you could ban employees from posting:
- Anything sensitive or confidential about your business, its clients and partners
- Offensive, bullying or discriminatory posts about fellow employees
- Anything that could harm your company’s reputation
Make sure it’s clear that this policy applies both in and out of work, and that your disciplinary measures can and will be used for breaching this policy.
A happy medium
Of course, if you put a policy like this in place, then it may be worth allowing your employees to use Facebook and Twitter at work, at least during designated hours, such as their breaks and lunchtimes.
You may find that by relaxing your rules on social media, you gain more trust from your employees, and they repay that trust with a boost in motivation and productivity.
It may also help to use your employees to help you build your brand and encourage positive messages about the business and its activities.
Like all good management, the key here is communication. Engage your employees in a meaningful conversation about your social media rules, what you expect to happen, and the benefits you can provide.
Find out more about how to develop your social media strategy to increase your business profile and engage with new audiences online in our guide to social media for small businesses.
Sage People Advice experts