Let’s face it. Copying and pasting a few lines to add to your existing employee handbook is the most likely outcome of you reading this post. After all, social media is tough enough already without having to deal with Yet Another Damn Thing – especially when that thing contain less-than-thrilling terms like ‘usage’ and ‘policy’. Recruitment DNA kicks in at a point when there’s too much thinking to do and we end up running to the comforts of familiar recruitment routine: telesales, database search and Skysports.com.
It doesn’t help that we entrepreneurial types are a special case, with unique requirements when it comes to the protection and dissemination of data. For us, the archetypes at the extremes – ‘total lockdown’ favoured by banks (i.e. ‘please hand over your smart phone at the door’) and ‘total free-for-all’ favoured by the start-ups (i.e. ‘just be good, dude’) – are much too simplistic for a business based on brokering human capital information; the former, cripples the competitiveness of our staff; the latter, puts the very integrity of our recruitment business at risk.
Of course, we know that not thinking about it isn’t an option. Social media usage continues to spike in hockey shaped curves, and – unless your business is staffed entirely by robots – that means your employees are getting busy on it, exposing themselves and your company to potentially debilitating risk.
What is to be done? You’ve got to write a policy. Here’s some things I’d like you to think about.
On the social web, to lack leadership is to lose ownership. One of the biggest problems we have in the financial world is a lack of C-level interest in social media, and that directly results in the ownership of digital assets being scattered across the company, lying with individual employees who had the initiative to set up those accounts in the first place.
You don’t have to be a genius to see how this might turn out – What happens if those employees leave?
The terms of usage for social media platforms make unhappy reading for anyone who owns or manages a business with more employees than ‘1’. The default position is to attribute ‘ownership’ to the creator of the account, rather than referring to the owner of the brand. By not clearly dealing with this issue in your social media usage policy, you’re effectively leaving your carefully built social media profile in the hands of the guy you might have just fired.
Businesses are obsessed by data – that is, having it, and not letting anyone else share. A loan company I dealt with in the UK wanted to specialise in weekend loans, after consulting their data, it was an easy translation to carry over. If I had however not been privy to this we would be completely in the dark over how to implement a plan-of-action. For the most part, companies can rely on consultants’ paranoia to prevent intentional leakage of confidential data, but it’s never a bad thing to state explicitly what is or what is not permitted to be discussed online. A further risk that we need to be aware of is that with any emergent technology is that we often don’t know how to use them, or worse, believe that we do when we don’t. What may feel like a 1-2-1 conversation, might in fact be a 1-2-every1 broadcast interview.
Covering this in your usage policy will be a useful reminder to your recruiters that the values of the social media platform they are on is different from that of traditional communication channels that they may be more used to using, and that they would do well to heed what those differences are. It would also cover your bases against the dumber members of your tribe for whom ‘common sense’ is has always been an optional extra.
It used to be the case that when you’re on work time, it meant that you’re at work and when you’re weren’t, it means that you’re not. In the era of the 24/7, always on social web, it’s no longer clear that this cliché holds. Your social media policy should make it clear that any exchange made whilst using corporate branded accounts, or personal accounts otherwise used for work, you will be in fact representing the company unless they specify otherwise. Some companies like to add a generic disclaimer, something like:
“The views here are my own!”
If there’s one line that might be worth making mandatory for your social media usage policy, this is it.
“The Company reserves the right to request the removals of posts injurious to the position of the company”
I sincerely hope that you never need to invoke this clause but having it there written in black and white in your social media usage policy that all your employees have signed up to might make you feel a little bit better at taking on this social media business in the first place.
Understand this: a great deal of this can be taken care by training – educating yourself and your staff on how to use social media responsibly and effectively for the business. However, we’re entrepreneurs, coders, photographers and artists among other things, we sell hard and sell for ourselves, and most importantly, don’t really have the time to be hippies. So roll out the policy – write it now or get somebody to do it for you.