Social media: 5 top tips

Social media has dramatically changed the way we engage and interact, but does your business understand the risks associated with it? David Jackson explains how you can utilise the benefits and avoid common pitfalls.

The mass adoption of social media has been revolutionary in the way that we interact with others, get our news, and connect with the world with around us. 

In just a few short years, our social media profiles have become our most publicly visible identities and are scrutinised as never before. A blanket ban on social media use in the workplace, other than in the most extraordinary of cases, is now unrealistic. These 5 top tips will help you to ensure that your employees access the power of social media without getting into trouble.

  1. It may be tempting to warn people off social media, but don’t be afraid to recognise the benefits
    Whether it’s through growing a personal network, contributing to a professional community or just accessing useful travel and weather news, there are hundreds of benefits of being actively engaged with social media. For many, social media is a big part of their professional and social lives. It’s important employers acknowledge the positive benefits to avoid the risk of being seen as out of touch or ignorant about how social media works. 

  2. Encourage people to remain thoughtful when they use social media

    People tend to like a good disaster story, so long as it hasn’t happened to them! Rather than providing a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts, encourage people to be thoughtful in their use of social media. Use examples from the news or your own industry that demonstrates different ways employees have misused social media. How about the Canadian employee who criticized his employer through an ‘anonymous’ Twitter account for giving staff a $6 bottle of barbecue sauce and wooden scraper as a Christmas gift? Unfortunately, he'd forgotten that he'd previously posted a photo from the same account showing his desk and workspace. Using multiple accounts can also prove tricky, as one charity employee discovered the hard way when a post about a late night drinking session appeared on the official Red Cross account and was viewed by thousands of people.

  3. Set clear boundaries when engaging with clients, suppliers or customers

    More explicit rules can be helpful when engaging with people who have a relationship with your company. For example, if you provide services to a bank, you probably don’t want one of your employees being hugely critical of that bank on social media. Whilst this is also a case of needing to be thoughtful, it can help to have firm rules. For example, how about allowing positive interactions with users and colleagues but saying no to anything negative?

  4. Explain to people that deleting social media posts is only partially effective

    Whilst some users of social media will be very savvy about how the technology works, others will be less aware of the full risks of posting in haste. Deleting social media content on any platform is only partially effective due to the ease of content being captured by screenshot or recovered through websites that makes archived content available. Simply being able to say that you have deleted something does not mean that it hasn’t done (and may be continuing to do) damage.

  5. Association can also be a risk, so help people understand what this means

    In addition to the content that people create, there is usually a record of other content that they have interacted with through likes, follows, shares or membership of groups. Whilst it would be easy to think of this as passive, any interaction can be seen as associating with other users or content and reflecting badly on the individual and employer as a result. Help your employees understand that interacting with content in any way needs just as much thought and sensitivity as creating their own content. 

The truth is that we are all still learning how to use social media and the ways it can be used against us. If you are worried about being seen as overly strict, why not make clear that we are all on this learning curve together and invite suggestions and ideas from those who may be further up that curve than others?

Author: David Jackson is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Twin Kingdom Consulting

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