To customers, suppliers, vendors, employees and potential employees, your social media presence isn’t just a sales or branding tool--it's the face of the company. Here’s how human resources (HR) can ensure your company puts its best (social) face forward.

Social media is an easy, affordable and effective way to engage with your company’s audience. To many people, your company’s social presence is the company: That’s how they interact and connect with you, and often how they develop their first impression.

The bad news is, that connection can often go wrong.

That’s why the best HR teams are developing social media strategies guidelines and policies for employees.

HR teams should also monitor social media channels to ensure that employees abide by these guidelines and policies.

“With the extensive use of social media at every level, policies are particularly important to guide staff,” says Barbara Tiano, Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) for The Human Capital Group. “Social media is a critical tool for recruiting top talent and communicating with prospects and clients, and the line between personal and professional content can become quite blurred. Staff needs to understand how to most appropriately use social media to protect the company brand. HR must also keep an eye on how employees are using their personal accounts, especially when discussing the company, its leadership and fellow employees.”

Aside from making sure social media posts reflect well on the company, keeping tabs on social media also provides insights into employee engagement, talent and potential red flags.

When it comes to quality social media engagement, there are some definite rules of the road. Getting your company on the right social media track starts with a few key steps:

  • When using a company's social media account, use pronouns such as “us,” “our,” and “we.” Otherwise, employees should say “I” or “me” to show they speak for themselves and not on behalf of the organization.
  • If an employee is speaking for themselves and their identity is not clear, they should include their name and role to provide context. If space doesn't allow, at least have the employee include first-and last-name initials so people know they're dealing with a real person who can address their concerns and provide answers.
  • Always expect employees to take personal responsibility for any content they publish or share. While they may do so on behalf of the organization, ultimately each employee is solely responsible for their own actions.
  • If an employee is unsure whether the information they plan to share is confidential, they should not share it. Always err on the side of caution.
  • Always provide something of value before posting. Employees should read their posts carefully and ask themselves, “Does this help promote the organization’s brand? Does this provide worthwhile information to our customers (or vendors, suppliers or employees)? Am I sharing facts or simply opinions?” Most importantly, “Is this something I am proud to post and that the organization will be proud for me to post?”

If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” the employee should refrain from publishing or sharing.

  • Never refer to a customer, client, vendor, supplier, or partner without their approval. While an employee may be proud of landing a new customer, ask for that customer’s permission before sharing the news. Every company has its own social media policy and that policy must be understood and respected.
  • When quoting or citing information gained from another source, always credit that source. Doing so is a sign of respect and courtesy.
  • Posting anonymously is not an excuse for publishing a comment or content that is offensive or inappropriate.
  • Never share content that is obscene or offensive. In short, never say, do or publish something online that would not be unacceptable at work.
  • Always remember that the organization’s brand is ultimately established by its employees and what employees publish reflects on that brand - for better and worse.

Will the recommendations ensure that every employee always engages in social media in a way that reflects well on your organization’s brand? Of course not. Social media is driven by people, and people make mistakes. Social interaction will always be a work in progress.

That’s why you must monitor how your employees use social media on your organization’s behalf and turn to your HR team for advice on best practices. If you see a problem, step in. Provide coaching and guidance. Help employees understand not just what they should and should not do, but why.

Take these steps and, in time, you’ll find your employees help each other represent your company’s brand in a way that truly puts its best face forward--because the best face of your company is made up of all the faces of your employees.

Published on: Sep 7, 2017