In the world of business, social media is taking a larger and larger role in the day to day function of the organizations that use them. Ten years ago, the concept of a “social media” specific employee was unheard of; today unpaid internships in this arena are common place. While the speed and reach of social media outlets are unmatched in the world of advertisements ability to reach targeted demographics, there are detractors to the social media market that can adversely affect a business.
There are several concerns that should be addressed by the company when using social media sites. These concerns include:
- What the organization's social media policy should be when employees are using the sites?
- How to manage the online reputation of the company?
- How to protect the privacy of the company, the employees, and the visitors to the sites?
- Other ethical considerations that may arise.
(The gold seal image is by Jossifresco (Own work) [released into the Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGold_seal_policy_v4.svg )
Create a Social Media Policy
The first and most important thing that a company can do is set up a strong and clear social media policy. Doing this will let your staff know how to interact with the company's social media outlets and will inform management on how to handle the online behaviors of their employees. One suggestion is to adhere to the social norms of the community that the company serves in deciding how to set up the social network policy. In the U.S., that would include leaving your employees personal lives personal while expecting professionalism at work and on the company’s online outlets. A good online policy can help to protect the company from liability for online behaviors and to avoid inadvertent discrimination through inappropriate regulation of people’s free speech. While it may be ok to ask an employee to monitor the way that they discuss the company, punishment for private comments may be over the line.
Focus on the Organization's Online Reputation
As the world becomes increasingly internet based, the so-called online reputation of a company can directly impact the success of a business, whether a mom and pop start up or a multi-national conglomerate. No company can easily weather a storm of public disapproval. In the interest of maintaining a positive online presence it behooves a company to adequately maintain their online reputation. Some of the things that can be done are quite simple and common sense. Spam is one of the most hated things on the internet. Constantly being bombarded by advertising, newsletter, junk e-mails, etc. can have a strong cooling effect on your online reputation. Customers that experience this behavior can just as easily condemn your communiques to the spam folder as read them, and reading them is your marketing goal. Further, there are online reputation management firms that can train your employees to properly interact with social media outlets or can manage them for you, for a price.
Online Privacy and Ethical Conduct
The final point that we will talk about is online privacy and ethical conduct. The privacy of the company is just as important as the privacy of the people that visit your social media sites. Confidential information such as social security numbers, logins, real world identities of visitors to your sites, or customers, are a treasure trove for hackers and corporate espionage. Identity theft is a growing problem and making sure that your company is not the weakest link in the security chain will make for a lot more comfortable customer interactions. Equally, protecting your customer’s privacy helps the company to avoid the ethical concerns that may arise. For example, if your company sold Plan B and your customer list was accidentally or purposefully leaked, that could lead the company into litigation and possible civil suits should that information be used to harm someone. There are, of course, other ethical concerns such as advertising political alignment or religious beliefs/affiliations can adversely affect the company’s bottom line.
- Social Media Changes for 2014 - http://inbound.business.wayne.edu/blog/social-media-changes-for-2014
(All accolades and credit for this tremendous blog post are for Kalvin Shunia who is the author and content creator.)