Social media policy must walk the talk

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As a company, you are what your employees behave on social media. Does this statement sound extreme?

Several companies are successfully using employees as brand ambassadors on social media. Employee advocacy has become as crucial as customer advocacy, particularly for services companies. There are examples of several companies that have adopted it successfully. Adobe, an early adopter of employee advocacy, is known for training its employees to be ambassadors. These employee ambassadors globally help build the narrative around #AdobeLife. The company briefs its employee ambassadors on forthcoming new products and services to build its right positioning online. It encourages employees to write for its blog. Working in Adobe, building a career in the tech sector are some of the aspects of this storytelling. Another early adopter of employee advocacy, Dell has more than 10,000 employees active on social and has reaped benefits of this advocacy network.

Two-sides of a coin

The virality of social media makes it both a good and a deadly weapon to have. There are instances of employees getting fired for their misdeeds on social media. Some companies exercise so much caution as to do background checks of potential hires online before deciding.

In today’s polarised world, where very few folks out there on social media take the middle ground, issues can snowball into a crisis in no time. When this happens, social media becomes a burden for companies. An employee’s perception of freedom of speech might end up compromising an organisation’s beliefs or interests. When a personal view of an employee clashes with professional responsibility, the outcome can be disastrous to both the individual and the company.

In general, social media sees different types of user behaviours. From an organisation’s perspective, two key behaviours, passive-aggressive and aggressive-passive, have its demerits. Several passive-aggressive employees express their stance or thoughts through retweets and shares of articles (and not expressing their views directly). Similarly, on some occasions, an otherwise active employee on social media turns passive about a specific matter and does not contribute to the narrative online. When these behaviours contrast with the organisation’s viewpoint, it is a cause for concern in both situations.

Rules, transparency, and adherence

To prevent catastrophes, most companies have social media policies and Do’s and Don’ts. Despite articulating clear policies and maintaining records in writing, companies find these as drawing a line in the sand when there is an issue. Sometimes confusions and issues arise as organisations fail to be transparent and let employees know its views on specific sensitive topics and developments. It leads to lack of understanding fundamentally. Clamouring up when implementing employee advocacy programme is a no-no.

Engaging with employees and guiding them wherever necessary is a must. Help them strike the right balance between personal and professional tone. In this world of fake news and information, it is essential to be factual and accurate. From an organisation’s standpoint, it is equally important to be respectful and polite. Understand the behaviour and rules of different social media platforms and engage in a meaningful manner.

One proactive step of engaging with employees can save thousands of customer disengagements. Prevention is undoubtedly better than cure.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Radha Radhakrishnan
Radha Radhakrishnan has over 25 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing across different industries and geographies. She has built a reputation as a storyteller and a creative thinker. She has mentored social entrepreneurial startups and has been a visiting faculty at premier communications institutes in India. She is currently the global head of corporate communications at Wipro Enterprises. She anchors the weekly PR and Communication podcast, Mrigashira.

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