Social Media Policy

Training is key to leveraging social media for building brand value!

If you take it at face value that leadership is influence, then you best be influencing your employees use of social media before you are influenced by it in ways you may or may not like. As an HR professional, were trained to manage and mitigate the risks of our employees’ actions to our organizations. For many this has led to the knee-jerk reaction of banning social media in the workplace altogether, as if we were some rogue dictatorship of a country like Syria or Cuba. Yet as the Turkish prime minister has recently discovered, blocking your people’s access to social media is about as futile as attempting to prevent a flood by covering the cracks in your dam with your hands.

More forward thinking organizations are coming to this realization sooner than their less progressive counterparts, and are taking the social media bull by the horns. MasterCard is an example, is one such organization. And at the heart of their strategy, what I would consider a major factor in their successful adoption of social media as an organization is training. This piece by Jeanne Meister highlights some of the steps the company has taken in recent years to actively influence their employees use of social media, and turn them into brand ambassadors.

Many of the steps the company is taking such as building a training and communications plan, posting in person social media training sessions at offices around the globe, distributing short educational videos via social media channels, and using reverse mentors (where younger millennial generation employees mentor older senior executives) to get them up to speed on the latest social media platforms and trends are all training and organizational development strategies we can all implement and utilize to lead similar efforts ourselves.

I would go as far as to tell you that not only can you turn your employees into brand ambassadors using some of these techniques, but go beyond and convert your best customers into brand ambassadors leveraging some of these strategies and tactics. Engage your employees, your investors and owners, and your customer base. Encourage your customers to post pictures and videos of themselves using and enjoying your products. Have your communications and marketing teams reach out to these customers, and get the stories behind their pictures and videos; these customers are telling the story of your brand- get their permission to highlight their excitement and enjoyment when using your products and services on your site. Bring attention to their efforts, and turn them from fans of your products and services to ambassadors!

There are just two roads you can travel to success in today’s digital and socially connected business climate. You can either lead with social media, or be led by it. 

Alex Santos

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop  and train their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, alex@collabor8learning.com or via Twitter@collabor8alex.

Three Major Social Media Policy Pitfalls to Avoid

This week, we learned of yet another firing of an employee for ranting about the customers he had to tolerate at his local Starbucks on a social media site. Starbucks isn’t the only company coping with the use of social media by its staff, and this is one of those thorny issues where the technology is clearly moving at net speed, and the law is slowly coming around at its usual snail’s pace. Organizations of all sizes are using social media tools to promote their products and services, yet their efforts are sometimes thwarted by employees airing the firm’s dirty laundry publicly via the use of these same sites. Tony Bingham, President of ASTD National, commented recently that just like the old 38 Special song-social media policies should be written so as to “Hold On Loosely, but don't let go…”. A very appropriate metaphor for how organizations can balance protecting their brands, yet not discourage the use of- or even worse, infringe on the free-speech rights of their employees. While we all await the long-arm of the law to clear things up, there are three major gaffes you want to avoid as an organization when crafting your social media policy.

Social Media Pitfall

There are many perspectives of what can and cannot be included in a well-crafted social media policy, but I’d like to review three of the major pitfalls that companies are making. First and foremost, overly-broad, vague, or policies encompassing too wide an array of behaviors are not holding up in courts or in National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions. In one recent example of this, an employee was terminated from a hospital for “talking badly about the hospital”- which was, of course, against the institution’s social media policy (see pg. 19 of the NLRB GC’s Memo here).  Without a standard or clear definition as to what “talking bad about” or “criticizing” the organization means- the NLRB is erring on the side of employees in these cases. Any social media policy that does not clearly define these broad terms or limit their definition in a way that excludes protected National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) Section 7 activity will likely not pass the proverbial “smell test”, and should be corrected immediately.

Secondly, policies that infringe on employees right to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection” should be corrected. These behaviors include employees discussing amongst themselves their wages, work hours, other terms and conditions of their employment, up to and including criticisms by coworkers of the company’s performance and are protected under section 7 of the NLRA. While a company’s Pavlovian response might be to quickly terminate an employee for criticizing the organization in a social media forum, they would be well advised to review their social media policy with counsel before doing so to ensure the employee’s rights will not be violated as a result. A well-crafted policy is especially conscious of these rights, and is worded in accordance with its principle.

Lastly, social media policies should reflect the culture and values of an organization, and be written so as to not alienate the very talent companies are attempting to recruit via these same social media channels! Many of the policies we are encountering in the workplace are so hideously written that a talented, high-potential candidate might read them and run in the opposite direction. Gen Y now entering the workforce has grown up with this technology, and even developed a very powerful, vast and carefully crafted network of resources they can tap into when faced with a challenge. If your employer brand is communicating how innovative your organization is, and these high-potential candidates are arriving at your workplace and finding your policy overly restrictive of their ability to draw upon these resources―you are creating a huge disconnect with the image you are working so hard to cultivate. Policies written in legalese by your legal team, and not developed in conjunction with your Human Resources leader to be aligned with the organization’s talent management strategy will keep you out of the courtroom but may also keep you out of a high-potential market talent market.


Alex Santos

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop  and train their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, alex@collabor8learning.com or via Twitter@collabor8alex.