Is it safe to operate without an employee social media policy?

Welcome to the age of flat world navigators. I am at The Social Media Risk: Privacy and Governance Forum in Melbourne and over the last two days I’ve heard all the latest stats on social media use, the take-up by boards, the horror stories of companies not being prepared to react to social media commentary, the legal implications and the risks.
It is evident the most risk to companies and individuals comes from feedback on poor customer service, or the expose of hypocrisy and double standards.

Social media is moving us in business to a transparent world. No longer will companies be able to hide poor process or practice.

With this in mind, are you guarding against official, professional and personal use of social media by your staff, contractors or even your family members?

The new research out from the US and more locally companies such as KPMG is interesting.

According to research issued by Stanford University the majority of corporates surveyed in the US admitted understanding the implications and risks of using social media but were doing little about it – very few had an internal social media policy for their staff and contractors.

At a time when the number of people and the time they spend on social media sites is increasing, staff are using workplace resources to engage with friends and followers in work time.

If you are not putting in place a staff policy around the use of social media you could be exposed to the potentially negative consequences of no disclaimers, fake or satirical accounts, personal and intimate details exposed, Political or controversial activity, confidential business information leaked and feedback and criticism of fellow work mates appearing online. You could be opening your company – or family to become the sort of Social Media horror story I am hearing about today.

What makes up an employee social media policy? The worst thing you can do is set a policy that is so complex and scary that no-one engages, content posting and conversation stops and innovation is stifled.

The following examples from the big guys are here by way of reference:


• Protect information

• Be transparent

• Follow the law, follow the code

• Be responsible

• Be nice, have fun and connect


“3 R’s representation, responsibility respect”

“Be real and use your judgement”


With regard to direction with your own policy, better to follow some basic rules

• Speak with an authentic voice

• Be real on line. Be honest

• React early if challenged

• Apologise quickly if a mistake has been made

• Write clearly so you are sure to be understood

• Don’t mix personal and professional speak

• Be responsible and don’t undermine your effectiveness at work

• Be careful not to speak on behalf of your company unless authorised to do so

As a business leader, it is also worth deciding the consequences of a breach by your staff and contractors.

As KPMG told us today from their research, Social Media can be a great friend. It can support compliance, governance and innovation. Current stats show it is being used at great benefit for 80 percent of users for a wide range of purposes including

• Marketing and Sales

• Business development

• Recruitment

• Consulting

• To change perception

• Customer service

• Research and development

• In surveys and feedback

• To spread news fast

If you aren’t already on line, you don’t need a strategy before you start. Just start. The 5 C’s will help: Consider, Connect, Content, Consistency and Collaboration.

To start using social media?

• Ask the same business questions you would with everything else

• Think about how you can engage with customers

• Set a budget to allow consistency of content posting

• Decide how you will measure success

As in all efforts, plan, monitor and measure. By way of preparation, you can:

1. Assess the landscape

a. What should our policies be?

b. What tone do we use?

2. Who is engaging at the moment?

3. Where are we interacting and why?

4. What currently governs interaction?

5. How familiar and adept are our staff

6. Do we need to include policy makers?

7. When have significant issues or concerns risen?

8. Who are the market leaders in our industry and why?

9. Look at case studies – how did they deal with mis-steps

10. What do their policies say eg hospital, school, corporate? NGO?

In the world of increased social media usage, the new order is about personalisation – about individual targeted messaging by individuals – whether we like it or not.

And while the risk of using Social Media is real – the opportunity and benefits are large. The evidence shows the risk of no action far outweighs the risk and cost of pro-activity.

If you haven’t already start with implementing your own employee social media policy and protect your company.

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