With the meteoric rise of social networking sites, social media has become omnipresent in both our personal and professional lives. While individuals use it to keep in touch with their friends and family, most businesses now embrace it as an important business tool.

However, for all its opportunities and benefits, inappropriate use of social media can have serious ramifications for any organisation. This means that there is a very real need for clear online policies and training for employees around the use of social media at work, and social media during their personal time if they speak as a brand ambassador or are clearly associated with your organisation in their personal capacity.

Staying in control

Your company’s social media channels reveal the public persona of your organisation; they form the voice of your brand. The content and opinions shared through social media, whether it’s via Twitter or Facebook, will be taken as the opinion of your brand/organisation as a whole. Therefore, it’s very important that any employee who has access to these online channels is well briefed on what makes acceptable online conduct, as well as the strategy/tone of voice of the organisation. This isn’t just about what is actually said through a social network, but also about the way in which you interact with other users.

Clear policies and training

Clear policies should be laid out around social media usage at work – both in a personal and professional context. All existing employees should be aware of what constitutes as acceptable usage and new employees should also be given an introduction to your internet protocol.

Official social media channels should be carefully monitored and access only given to the relevant people in the business. Training on social media etiquette, upholding brand reputation and online crisis management should also be made available to those employees looking after your company’s social media.

Social media usage and policies will vary greatly from company to company, but points that you could consider in your guidelines may include the following.

  • Determining the situations and purpose of social media in your organisation.
  • Acting professionally and what this entails.
  • Protecting individual privacy and company reputation.
  • If/when it’s acceptable to use personal networking sites during working hours.
  • Process for dealing with, and escalating feedback received through social media sites.

 Social media in recruitment

Some employers may choose to use social media accounts to screen potential candidates during a recruitment process. This should be a warning to job hunters about upholding a respectable online presence. However, there is also some risk to the employer when using this as a recruitment strategy – namely around issues of privacy, data protection and discrimination.

Personal information about an applicant’s social or family life, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation may well be published on a social networking page – and these must not be used in any way to influence recruitment decisions. If you were to become involved in an employment tribunal, you could face a discrimination claim if information has been gathered in this way. With this in mind, it is best practice to not be exposed to this personal information in the first place.

This information is intended as a guideline only, and the use of social media can vary greatly between organisations and industries. To find out what’s appropriate for your business, please get in touch with your own marketing or legal department or external advisors.

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