Social media guidelines for your business

Don’t you sometimes feel that we’re given mixed messages about the use of social media in business?

Some days all you hear is how it’s a great way to connect with your customers. The following day the media is full of horror stories about how business X has mishandled a customer complaint on facebook, or an employee has run amok on their twitter feed.

Even the oh-so-serious Linkedin has been blamed for an executive being forced to quit his job.

So, how can businesses make sure they’re getting all the benefits of a well-connected workforce while minimising the risks of a social media catastrophe?

Block social media for your employees?

The truth is that I probably wouldn’t be interested in working for a company that limited their employees’ access to social media. And I’m not alone. A recent survey has found that half of workers aged 24 or under wouldn’t even consider working for a business where social media is banned.

Introduce a social media policy

The team behind our employment law service, Sage People Advice, recommend introducing a social media policy. It’s something we’ve had in place at Sage for a few years and I’m actually in the process of reviewing and revising it.

We have a policy for two reasons:

• to protect our reputation
• to make our people feel secure

With a policy in place we all know where we stand and we’re all doing things the right way. At Sage, we want our people to enjoy all the benefits of social media but we don’t want them to be concerned that they may do or say something that ends up in the press.

Covered by your IT policy?

Some organisations have included social media in their IT policy but it’s important to remember that it needs to go further than what sites you look at and when. It’s about how you represent your company online. There is a blurring between the professional you and the private you online and I believe that once you’ve identified yourself as working for a company on your social media profiles you’ve effectively made yourself a spokesperson.

Our policy is based on common sense principles but I always say to people when I’m talking them through it to think before you press enter on your keyboard. Stop and ask yourself “am I happy for this content to be spread far and wide and stay online forever”. If there’s even a tiny risk of regret then it’s time to walk away from the keyboard.

Cath Sheldon, Social Media Team