When was the last time you dusted off your social media guidelines? Can’t remember?
Well, then that’s a problem.
If you haven’t updated your online policy for employees since about the time the iPhone first appeared on the market, you’re way overdue. In fact, those obsolete rules could very well be limiting the effectiveness of your Employee Advocacy program.
Organizations are eager to help build brand awareness and increase the reach of marketing efforts through the authentic voices of their people. And employees often want to share all the cool things that are happening at work and show their company pride.
But . . .
Employees may also be a little concerned. What if I say something wrong? Can I get in trouble? What if I’m not sure I know how to “do” Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook?
Many people may decide, “Thanks, but no thanks. It’s not worth the risk.”
That’s why it’s so essential for companies to have smart social media policies that encourage employees to participate and calm any fears they might have about making mistakes. All of that starts with guidelines that make it clear the company wants employees to talk about the brand online – and helps them to be better advocates.
Let’s be honest. That will be a significant change for many companies. At the 2018 Summit by Dynamic Signal, Ethan McCarty, the CEO at Integral Communications Group, presented an excellent session that included a focus on making your Employee Advocacy program more inviting.
“Computerworld said in 2007 that 2008 will be the year of social,” McCarty told the audience. “That is when most companies that I have been working with wrote their social media guidelines and blogging guidelines, and they’ve been trapped in amber and written in cuneiform since then. Most of them are written in one word: Don’t! Well, we can do a lot better than that.”
“Some companies have a history of telling people that they shouldn’t be posting on social about the brand,” Dopson said. “But we should want to highlight our employees because the people who are working at our company are geniuses. They’re the ones who are building the products or having interactions with customers. They’re the people who should be telling our story instead of being hidden away.”
Employees are already talking about your company online. Brands can help by shepherding those digital conversations. But to borrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean, a social media policy shouldn’t be a hard-and-fast code or rule. These should be guidelines for proper online behavior.
So, here are some of my suggestions about crafting a social media policy that will make your employees feel more comfortable about participating.
8 Suggestions for Improving Your Social Media Policy
Less is More
Employees won’t read the policy – or will be left utterly confused – if it’s just a long block of text written by lawyers. Of course, the legal team must weigh in. But it shouldn’t read like a contract. My experience is that your company’s standard computer use policy and employee behavior guidelines should already cover most of the same ground. Your social media policy should be written in easy-to-understand language that has a friendly, encouraging tone.
Don’t Make It Scary
People want practical guidance, not fear-mongering. Make it clear that you want your employees to be involved, and these guidelines will assist them. People want to know what happens if they do make a mistake, like unintentionally mentioning a competitor’s product name. People need to know that they’re not going to get in trouble. You’re an excellent employee. We’re going to contact you and make sure you understand what the policy is, and then ask you to edit your post. Don’t threaten a scolding. Promise that you’ll help.
Emphasize the Safety Net
A platform like Dynamic Signal gives employees guardrails, so they don’t accidentally do something wrong. The guidelines should explain how the platform automatically blacklists things like profanity, so it can’t appear in posts. In regulated industries like insurance and financial services, problematic words like “guaranteed” also can be blacklisted. The platform enables communicators to write suggested share text, so employees can simply use that as the foundation for their posts. That can remove a big hurdle for people who worry that they aren’t natural writers. Knowing that controls are in place to put them (and the company) in a positive light will make employees feel more confident.
Make the Policy Accessible
Don’t hide your guidelines away where people can’t find them. With Dynamic Signal’s platform, you can create a Quick Link, so employees can instantly reference the policy if they have a question before they tap “send” on a Tweet or share a post.
Explore Policies at Other Companies
Imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery. Do some research about what other companies are doing for their policies. Some companies, like IBM, even make their guidelines publicly available. Or just look for companies that have Employee Advocacy programs you admire and reach out to them. I believe this community is always happy to help peers. Just ask.
OK, so what else can you do beyond the actual guidelines to make an Employee Advocacy program feel welcoming?
Quite a bit, actually.
Training and Education
My former company, SAS, does a phenomenal job with ongoing training to help employees in all kinds of roles be absolute rock stars on social media. The philosophy is simple. When employees look smart, the company looks smart, too. Things like seminars, internal webinars, and office hours can focus on a multitude of topics that are all designed to help employees be their best selves online . . . and reinforce the social media standards at your organization.
I’ve found it really helpful when employees have examples to follow. With Dynamic Signal’s platform, you can create a Quick Link that shows samples of great posts submitted by employees. You can break down the posts and explain why they worked so well. (Good hashtags, genuine enthusiasm, nice use of an important statistic, a compelling graphic element.) You can even have separate sections like “Twitter Done Right!” or “Shining on Facebook!” This also is a way to recognize efforts and highlight employees whom you want to be seen as peer leaders for others to emulate.
Creating easily accessible FAQs (hello again, Quick Links!) also is an excellent way to address common concerns. Just think of questions employees might have. How often do you recommend I post something? What if I don’t know the formal name of a product? What should I do if I see something inaccurate about our company online? When you get good questions from employees, add them to the list. If one person is wondering about something, others probably are, too.
Finally, it’s our nature as communicators and marketers to always think about worst-case scenarios. We talk about the risks of doing something inappropriate on social media until we’re blue in the face. But I suggest sitting down with your HR team to learn just how often it happens. In my experience, companies having problems with employees online are few and far between.
Yes, we have to be prepared. (Hence, the guidelines.) But the vast majority of your employees are already wonderful examples of your brand. You should be doing everything possible to empower them to tell their stories – and the story of your company. The benefits far outweigh potential problems. In today’s day and age, if you’re not on social, you’re not part of the discussion. Silence may be the biggest risk of all.
Let’s stoke that employee enthusiasm to brag on the company, and not douse it with intimidating guidelines.
Interested in learning more about the power of Employee Advocacy? Here’s our post, “A Dozen Employee Advocacy Stats That Will Make You Think.” Also, download our free guide, “Getting Real: Employee Advocacy in a Time of Eroding Trust.”