Social Media: Message, Reputation, and Privacy
In the world of business, social media applications are 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 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, concerns such as what the social media policy should be when 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, and other ethical considerations that may arise.
Social Media Policies
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 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 at 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. The Society for Human Resource Management provides an excellent general example of a social media policy here: https://www.shrm.org/templatestools/samples/policies/pages/socialmediapolicy.aspx . Another resource to expand your knowledge base about social media resources can be found at HubSpot in an article by Corey Eridon here: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29441/5-Noteworthy-Examples-of-Corporate-Social-Media-Policies.aspx
Online Reputation: Importance and Management
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. These companies act as a kind of personal public relations firm, only online. The price range for this kind of service can fluctuate; however, you can expect to see a hefty monthly fee and in some/most cases an equally hefty initial buy-in. For example, Reputation.ca claims that most of their customers’ packages begin at a $4,000 upfront fee plus a $3,000 a month, for three months, price tag for search engine reputation management, where they push down bad results and push up good ones. You can find a list of reputation management firms here: http://reputation-management-services.topseosguide.com/ and if you are interested in further readings about this phenomenon you can find articles about it here: http://www.businessinsider.com/reputation-management-2013-12 and here: http://outspokenmedia.com/guides/orm-guide/
Privacy and Ethics in Social Media
The final point 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. Though there is no hard and fast answers that are worth anything in regard to any actual ethical questions there are some good readings that can be done. Here are a few that the author used in creating this blog. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/08/data-online-behavior-research/5781447/ and http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-social-networking/
- Bort, Julie. (2013). Inside the sleazy world of reputation management, where people pay to control what you see on the internet. Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/reputation-management-2013-12
- Eridon, Corey. (2011). 5 noteworthy examples of corporate social media policies. Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29441/5-Noteworthy-Examples-of-Corporate-Social-Media-Policies.aspx
- Jayson, Sharon. (2014). Social media research raises privacy and ethics issues. Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/08/data-online-behavior-research/5781447/
- Services pricing. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.reputation.ca/pricing/
- Social media policy. (2014). Retrieved from: https://www.shrm.org/templatestools/samples/policies/pages/socialmediapolicy.aspx
- The online reputation management guide. (2014). Retrieved from: http://outspokenmedia.com/guides/orm-guide/ .
- Vallor, Shannon, "Social Networking and Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/ethics-social-networking/ .
(All credit and accolades for this tremendous blog post are for Kalvin Shunia who is the author and content creator.)