And before I forget, let’s make that effective social media training, shall we? Pam Moore wrote this great article “Social Media Policy & Governance: 17 Tips to Mitigate Social Business Risk.” It’s quite insightful and focuses pretty heavily on the brand/marketing perspective but she makes a few points that should really resonate with ethics and compliance professionals on this hot topic.
1. Social Media is Not. Going. Away. Deal With The Risk.
Social media is here. It’s changing and evolving. New networks are popping up every week. Just when you figure out what Twitter is, here comes Vine, Tumblr and Reddit…I probably sound like an old lady admitting how much I love Pinterest. I’m in the compliance software technology world so we tend to embrace techy trends but I’m still surprised how many companies are afraid of social media. But ignoring it won’t make it go away.
Social media does carry risk for your organization so deal with that risk. But deal with it from a place of empowerment, not from a place of fear. To quote Pam: you cannot mitigate what you don’t acknowledge. So acknowledge the risk associated with social networks and your company’s reputation and proactively manage that risk rather than letting it catch you by surprise. However, prohibiting participation in social media, or hiding from it, does not mitigate anything. As Pam writes “There is no “off button” when it comes to social media. You can’t choose to opt-out. Because the rest of the world IS on social media, the fact that you decide to stay off of the social networks does not mitigate your risk. Chances are a good majority (if not close to all) of your employees are already using social media. Ignoring this fact is a bigger risk than engaging in social media activities.”
2. Your Customers Are On Social Networks; Empower Your Employees to Interact
Don’t forget, your clients, partners, vendors, etc, are already out there in the social sphere and they are talking about your company whether or not you choose to join them, so why not be part of the conversation? Why not empower your employees to promote your company values on social media rather than be afraid to let them participate at all? Create policies and social media training that work for your organization. But make those policies smart. Just having a policy that reads “social media is prohibited” is not smart or realistic. It’s also probably not enforceable.
In B2B technology marketing, we live on LinkedIn. No, that doesn’t mean I am job-searching all day or looking up recruiter profiles. If I worked in a less trusting culture, that may be a problem. But frankly, LinkedIn is a great vehicle for The Network to promote our compliance software to the marketplace. However, our company does have a social media policy and I ensure every update I post is compliant. This is a win/win for my company; I’m able to promote our products and values in the social sphere, which is where our clients are, but within our company’s acceptable boundaries of risk.
3. Employees are Human
In order to protect your organization and your employees, you need the guidance of a social media policy. But you need one that is created thoughtfully with your organization’s unique values and traits in mind. Ethics and compliance professionals should create a policy collaboratively with other departments like HR and Marketing, since it touches so many employees and since certain departments, like Marketing, will use social media in their daily business functions. Further, you will need interactive social media training to ensure your employees understand the policy and will apply its principles when they are out on the ever-increasing number of social networks. Remember, the goal is to empower your employees to be company ambassadors in the social sphere while adhering to the boundaries you set.
Of course, like with all other risk and compliance issues, you must have a plan for what to do if employees inadvertently – or intentionally – violate the policy and for whatever consequences arise. No policy can ensure perfect behavior. Unfortunately, those consequences in the social media world can be very public. You must plan for it and be ready to manage what happens.
Naturally, I’m thinking of this from the ethics and compliance perspective because that’s what The Network does, but I’m also the head of Marketing; I’m responsible for our brand and I manage our social media strategy here. I believe that social media should be integrated into your marketing and business processes and activities. While we are thinking about risk here, ultimately, social media and however your company chooses to use it, should align to your business goals.
4. It’s the New Normal
I’ve heard many stories of companies that have either banned employees from using social media altogether or have put together social media policies that are so strict they might as well just ban it. Given the rise of the millennial workforce – we’ve written plenty on what that means for ethics and compliance – and their prolific use of social media, I would think twice about that. There is no reason to ban it altogether if you have a clear policy and strong social media training to guide your employees.
What do you think? Does your organization have a social media policy in place? Do you have social media training for your employees? How do you manage social media risk?