Social media can be a powerful business tool. It can help a company to stand out and it can also crush careers in 280 characters.
Jeremy Evans, Marketing Delivery managing director, said there hasn’t been a huge focus from dealers on making sure they have a social media policy in place, but this is starting to change as the medium has become more ingrained in daily life.
Evans said it was best practice to have a dedicated person, whether that’s the marketing team or digital advocate to handle social media posts.
He said: “If the tone is cheeky or comedic, that’s fine, but you have to be consistent and happy that it will be the online persona of the brand.”
Alex Jones, Carbase head of marketing and digital and highly commended at the AM Awards 2019 for Best Use of Social Media, has a social media policy as part of the company’s handbook.
Carbase had a general internet usage policy from 2007 which loosely covered social media, but this was split to provide social media with its own policy in 2011. This policy has been incrementally updated annually since.
It was put together with the help of the marketing team, HR and outside experts and it includes areas such as bullying and mental health.
Matthew Potter, partner at legal firm Howes Percival, said a social media policy provides guidelines for usage and remedies for misuse.
He said: “Failure to monitor and regulate usage can result in damage to your brand, disclosure of confidential information and even liability for discriminatory or defamatory comments.”
Potter said a social media policy will usually be found in the staff handbook and may form part of the conditions of employment. They can cover social media use at any time, whether during office hours or private use, especially if the employer or brand can be identified from the individual or their postings or tweets.
Ideally, staff should be trained on the use of social media both in terms of its positive effect and also in terms of what to avoid. The policy should include what happens in the event of a breach and what steps the company is likely to take against an employee.
Dealers should also ensure it is in line with existing policies such as those about discipline, grievance and data protection.
Jones was prompted to introduce a policy after seeing that some staff were posting more personal and throwaway comments while representing the company and some customers would come back and ask if it was the opinion of the company.
There were no major problems, but Jones took it as a warning sign that there needed to be something more structured in place.
The marketing team now handles all social media posts. This doesn’t mean content is a watered down corporate message, but all content follows the mantra of “amuse, admire and inspire”.
A post has to fit that brief to get posted. Instant emotional responses or “rage responses” are a no-no.
The fact the marketing team control messaging and tone doesn’t mean other members of the Carbase team are left out either. With permission, their Facebook profile or Twitter handle can be tagged in posts or projects team members are directly involved in.
Carbase doesn’t encourage business-specific social media profiles, so when staff are tagged they can be their own personal ones or specific business profiles if that’s what they prefer.
An area Jones thinks doesn’t get addressed around social media is closed chat groups like Whatsapp or Facebook messenger. These can be work-specific, just involving people within the business and can be fun, but they can also be a breeding ground for bullying and negativity.
Jones said: “Those chats around the water cooler have moved to group messaging services.
“We haven’t had any big problems with this, but we could see warning signs again so we ask that group chats that only involve the business aren’t used .”
Jones acknowledged it can’t be guaranteed that staff will read through four pages of social media policy, but it’s there for reference and the company’s approach to social media is covered in the induction process.
There is also a five-step e-learning course put together by Litmos Heroes to engage staff with Carbase’s approach.
Jones said: “We make sure staff see how successful we have been and why this approach works.”
Social media resources
Tips on how to write a social media policy
Hootsuite, the social media management platform, has put together some tips on how to draw up a social media policy, with examples from big corporates like Adidas.
Turning social media policy from a liability to an advantage
Sprout Social, a social media management company, hosts a YouTube session on forming a social media policy that isn’t “dry, boring and tyrannical”.
The perils of using WhatsApp at work
An article from the Financial Times exploring why group chat apps can be risky at work.