Social Media: what’s nice and what’s naughty?

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The fast-moving world of social media means that often we can barely keep up with the latest changes – let alone work out what rules we should apply to them. Every retailer knows that a social commerce branch on their business tree is essential in the 21st century, but many shy away from getting stuck in and reaping the benefits because they’re unsure about the rules of engagement, including how to safeguard their employees online, and protect their brand.

If that’s you, worry no more. All you need are clear guidelines for your business– read on to find out our top ten tips for creating your own:

  1. Start out by clearly defining who is covered under the guidelines. Hint: it should be everyone. Social media is becoming a ubiquitous part of life, and it’s likely that almost all employees will contribute to some form of social media content, whether professionally on behalf of the business, or personally through their online profiles and networks.
  2. If they want to talk about the brand online, make sure they know who the right person to contact for permission is, and that they know they have to speak to them before any activity goes ahead. Don’t be in a position where you’re shutting the stable door as the horse disappears over the hill!
  3. Be clear about what topics the business will never comment on, and ask employees to bear these in mind even during personal, private interactions.
  4. Maybe you want the employee to talk on your behalf – this can be a great opportunity if handled correctly. Make sure they are transparent about the company they’re speaking for, that their profile is professional and represents the brand accordingly, and that they use their real name…
  5. …but whilst it’s great to be transparent, be careful confidential data doesn’t slip out! It’s okay to say if something is private or classified. This particularly applies if the company is under litigation or other legal matters.
  6. Employees might be tempted to speculate, or answer a question with an answer that they’re not 100% sure of, or perhaps post an badly-worded or offensive response, intentionally or otherwise. Once it’s out there, it’s out there! Make it crystal clear what the consequences are and always advise them to seek expert advice if they’re not sure about anything.
  7. Be diplomatic, both when talking about the competition and when encountering opposite opinions. Employees should be polite, stick to the facts, have the appropriate permissions, and above all, avoid getting defensive!
  8. Pull the plug in a crisis situation – employees should not be discussing the situation online and should flag any activity to the person in charge. Even anonymous comments can be traced; make sure they know this.
  9. Credit where credit is due – links, credits and trackbacks should be provided for external sources (unless of course they want to be anonymous).

10.  Of course, your employees will have their own rich social media life, and whilst this is perfectly fine, make sure that any that could be seen as being related to your company have               a ‘views are my own’ disclaimer.

Tweak as appropriate for your own internal documentation, structure and strategy. We recommend holding an introduction seminar or meeting to outline the guidelines and give people the opportunity to ask any questions. Social media isn’t something to be afraid of; with the right guidelines you’ll have nothing to worry about, so get stuck in. Good luck!


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