Thursday, August 20, 2009

Company Internet Policies: When Social Networking Goes Wrong

Many business people know that social networking and social media can be a powerful addition to your marketing toolbox.

But what happens when social media goes wrong?

Your marketing team is trying to figure out how to best capitalize on the benefits of social interaction on the web, but your human resources team could be sweating.

Every member of your staff has access to social websites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter among the hundreds of others. This can benefit your company by extending your reach into these communities. However, your company can also be potentially damaged by negative spin or distribution of confidential information.

In healthcare and financial sectors we are also seeing issues surrounding privacy violations.

So how do you benefit from employee participation in social networks, without putting your company, and potentially your customers at risk?

One of the keys is to create and disseminate a very precise written policy regarding conduct on social networking sites. These policies should include both work and personal activities of your employees.

Your company Internet policies will vary, but here are some topics to consider as you're creating these policies.

  • Do you allow your employees to identify themselves as employees in their personal communications?
  • What is your policy surrounding derogatory comments regarding your organization or their position within the organization?
  • What information do your employees possess that should be considered confidential, proprietary, or private?
  • How should clients or customers be identified in these communications?
  • What are the consequences of policy violation? Repeat offenses?
  • Where can employees go if they have a question about a policy?
  • To what extent does your company have the right to censor employees?
  • What is your policy on using social media sites for job hunting or career change?
  • What personal conduct policies do you have in place, and how do they extend to the Internet?
  • How can your employees promote your brand without damaging it?
  • How does use of social media affect employee productivity?
  • Does employee social media participation for your company at legal risk?
  • How will you police violations of your social media policies?
  • How will you disseminate the policies to your employees?
  • What reaction will your customers have if they learn of your social media policies?
  • Do these communication policies extend beyond the Internet to telephone and other communication methods?

Turning your employees into a marketing engine by permitting online social interaction can be valuable, particularly if they are doing it on their own time. Make sure however that your employees know clearly the do's and don'ts.
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