For your small business to see success in 2017 and beyond, use of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, can be an important factor. With work environments generally moving toward a more relaxed, low-maintenance feel, employees logging on to Facebook or sending tweets during work hours may not only become a standard practice, but can also serve to benefit your companys bottom line. However, potential difficulties arise from possible blurring of the lines between professional and personal conduct. Because social media is, at present, still a fairly fresh cultural dichotomy for the business world to be concerned with, precedents remain to be set, specifically in the area of regulation. It is therefore a good idea for you to establish your companys own social media usage policy to better illuminate the personal and professional boundaries for your employees.
The Need for Guidelines
As a small business, your company is particularly vulnerable to potential hazards of social media usage. Regardless of your companys size, establishing strong and uniform social media usage policies and guidelines is of vital importance. While there are various reasons for this, some of which overlap or are deeply intertwined, there are three distinguishable areas that a well-organized and implemented social media policy can work to address. The first is protection for the reputation of your business. Clearly outlined dos and donts about what is and is not appropriate posted content stops employees from playing a dangerous guessing game when posting on their own social networks. The second is clarification about misunderstood, ambiguous, or otherwise cloudy legal ramifications that an employees post may have for your company. Finally, a strong set of social media guidelines enables your employees to not only understand their restrictions, but also offers them a clearer picture of the myriad ways they can effectively utilize social media to promote your company, help your business achieve its goals, and ultimately benefit your bottom line.
Determine Policy Purpose
The foundation of your social media policy should be built on the primary reasons why your company wants or needs to address specific potential issues with social media posting. Your business might be establishing new or updated guidelines in response to a specific social media issue that has arisen or may arise in the near future. For example, an employee who thoughtlessly posts details of an argument with his or her manager, or who prematurely posts information about an innovative product your company is developing. These issues specific to your company should be the cornerstone of your policy; the rest can be fleshed out from there. Think of this step as creating the mission statement of your social media guidelines.
The boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable social media posts and communication are not the same for every company. Consider consulting a legal professional to determine basic legal parameters to institute in your policy based on your type of business. You can expand on these parameters to work with established company values and goals. Try to consciously avoid crafting policies in a way that may make employees feel stifled of expressing creativity and personality.
Encourage Group Posting and Interaction
You want to encourage interaction and collaboration. Facebook, for example, enables you to establish a group for your employees. Part of your companys social media policy should include ongoing sharing and communication within this group setting to keep employees feeling closely bonded even when they’re not at work. Close connectivity generally fosters an atmosphere of higher creativity, brainstorming, and teamwork; these are aspects with beneficial ramifications for your company’s productivity and bottom line. Social media structures that foster better communication and interaction can strengthen the core of your company team and help propel growth.
Regardless of how many employees you have, you want your policy to outline and clarify each employee’s role and responsibilities related to social media. By clearly identifying and assigning posting tasks and rights respectively to employees, you run a much lower chance of having problems such as confusing or repetitive posts at best, and dangerously inappropriate or skewed posts at worst. As a small business owner, you may not have the budget or available skill set to establish a proper information technology (IT) department. Businesses that possess such a department will likely find it easier to efficiently assign and define internet-related roles to workers. Still, even if you only have a few employees, consider taking the time to assess and understand employee strengths and weaknesses before divvying up posting rights and responsibilities. This enables you to utilize each employee fully and offer assignments within his or her comfort zone. Ultimately, this makes for smooth, creative, and high-quality content of posts that best serve your business. Your small business can reap significant benefits from your employees actively posting on social media and engaging customers. However, it’s a good idea to clearly communicate to your employees proper guidelines for social media posts related to your company.