Language choice is essential when it comes to internal communication. It’s also critical when communicating social media guidance within organisations. How social media friendly are you?
In my last column I wrote about obeying the social media rules of the road and equipping leaders. I’m now going to look at creating social media guidelines for employees and available resources.
One of the first steps is to identify your approach thorough choice of language. For example, think about the difference between the word policy as opposed to guidelines.
Policy could be perceived as a threat and guidelines opportunity. I’m going to use them interchangeably here, but decide what fits with the culture of your organisation.
Remember, social media is something that is done for not to employees. The same is true when creating your social media policy.
The approach I champion is to create flexibility within boundaries. How?
- Involve employees at every stage; from setting guidelines, to communicating and refreshing them
- Trust and encourage your employees to do the right thing using social media rather than assume they will do the wrong thing
- Clearly outline expected behaviours (including defining what your organisation means by the ‘right thing’)
- Be explicit about the boundaries and accountability – for individuals and the company
- Detail the consequences of employee actions. Both good and bad
- Give them options when it comes to channel use
- Identify your ambassadors/super-users and work with them to self-regulate your social networks and develop guidance
- Have an open dialogue with employees, seek their views and commit to continually update your policy.
In content developed for Neal Schaffer’s upcoming Maximize Your Social book, my fellow WMN colleague and communication management and #socialPR specialist Judy Gombita has written about Social Media Guidelines: Creating An Employee Resource.
In it she states: “Both external and internal communication specialists in the corporate communication department understand the importance and impact of a name given to a document, including who bears responsibility for its creation and how many areas have input.
“Internal communication specialist Rachel Miller indicates that garnering feedback from departments beyond corporate communication can help shape the content and assist in a more-willing internal adoption of policies and guidelines. She characterises it as “gathering not only your allies but also the doubters” for ongoing acceptance and implementation.
“Miller also indicates this leads to a “you say, we’ve created” scenario, rather than “tell and sell.” Communicating the value of social business guidelines as a resource sends a powerful message, particularly when coupled with how guidelines differ from policies.”
Social media moves at pace. Review your policy annually with employees to ensure relevancy, accuracy and to reflect current trends.
You cannot over-communicate social media guidance internally. They should be evolving documents that equip employees for success. Ensure your workforce know from day one what they can expect when it comes to social media use by including it in your induction process.
This is not a one-way conversation. The company and employees will have their own views and expectations when it comes to using social media. Have an open and transparent conversation upfront and continuously in order to avoid misunderstandings.
In my last column I highlighted Dean Royles, Chief Executive of the National Health Service (NHS) Employers Organisation in the UK. The organisation is part of the NHS Confederation and the voice of employers in the NHS. Dean’s stance when it comes to social media is: “staff are trusted with patients’ lives, so why not trust them with social media.”
At the start of 2013 it published a document called HR and social media in the NHS. Billed as the essential guide for HR directors and managers, it offers guidance for them to read and discuss with their staff around social media use.
Dean says: “If you have a public Facebook profile that says you work for the NHS and a LinkedIn profile that tells the world, can you separate the two? We needed sensible guidance to reconcile this. A policy trying to prevent any social media use seems unworkable given the changing way that staff and the public interact with social media.”
Among the advice it offers, is the need to highlight the guidance on offer to employees and train them in what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour online.
I’ve linked to more than 300 policies via my blog, both documents and videos, so you can see what other people are doing and perhaps get some ideas as to what you could replicate or adapt for your organisation.
Its report Social Media & The Law: Social media litigation: How prepared is your business, found that 19% of companies don’t have any social media policies. Where one exists, responsibility for maintaining and updating it (and employment contracts) predominantly rests with:
- Marketing (34%)
- Legal (28%)
- HR (24%)
Additionally, 27% of companies collaborate within departments or across the company. Over a third of companies have thought about the fact that work life often extends beyond working hours and have made sure their policies cover employees outside of work too.
Katy Howell, managing director of immediate future told me: “We found one fifth of respondents had no social media policy, yet it is pivotal to best practice. It sets out the framework for good governance and protects the business.
“Creating a policy is just the beginning. With ever-changing regulations and case law, it will need updating regularly. It also needs to be a living, breathing document too. This means it can’t sit in a dusty cabinet. Employees should be trained and supported, the business needs to change structures, operations and working practices to ensure that social media communications are safe and the company is protected from unnecessary liabilities.”
If you have a policy in place, what else can you do to ensure your workforce know what can and can’t be shared via social media?
Social Media Friendly Mark
In 2012 the Local Government Association (LGA) in the UK introduced a Social Media Friendly Mark (pictured). It’s an image that comms pros in any local authority (council) and fire and rescue service can use to let employees know whether internal communication can be shared via social media.
The LGA does not monitor use and it’s not an accreditation mark. Local authorities are not expected to amend any existing marketing collateral or to ‘undertake additional expenditure’ in using the Social Media Friendly Mark.
Instead, it seeks to add clarity and organisations determine best use.
How are you communicating what your employees can and can’t do when it comes to using social media?