Presentation summary from the PRSA Nebraska April luncheon.
Guest speakers: Kathryn Dittrick, Attorney at Law. FraserStryker and Melissa Farris, Marketing Specialist at Boystown.
Empower your employees with Social Media
By Kate O’Dell
Over 53% of corporation executives see social media use increasing with their employees both personally and professionally. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are just a few of the many growing social media sites that are used daily by millions. News flies fastest through these networks. The employee’s ability to communicate quickly with large masses of people can be both an asset and a risk for employers.
Melissa Farris, Marketing Specialist with Boystown and Kathryn Dittrick, Attorney at FraserStryker Law Firm, came to speak about the different considerations that should be taken when implementing a social media policy in your organization.
Employees can be your greatest advocates. But without direction and guidance they are not empowered to be those valuable advocates. This is a relevant topic that needs to be addressed directly with corporate policy.
How can you empower employees?
Be sure to keep your employees educated on exact social media policy. Make sure expectations are clear regarding use of social media and what is acceptable. Whether the policy is completely strict and doesn’t allow use of social media at work, or if it is a more relaxed policy that allows limited access. This needs to be outlined clearly in order to make sure expectations are clear.
Secondly, give employees the online tools they can easily use to share any possible information from your company. These can be placed on a company website with different links to stories, photos and videos talking about what your company is doing. This makes it easy for an employee to brag about your company’s accomplishments and often they are willing and proud to do so. Consider keeping a Social Media Resource Center with links to recent media stories, cover page options, status updates, and also links to official pages.
Different Types of Digital Knowledge
Most important in the approach of social media utilization is the training necessary to make sure your employees know how to best apply their abilities to communicate online. There are different types of individuals and skill levels when it comes to familiarity with these fairly new technological tools. The different types of groups of people are described by Farris as five different training groups.
5 different training groups:
Digital Native: This person grew up in social media. They are very aware of how to use the tools. Their training should be more focused on the company’s social media goals and how they can help to achieve those goals.
Savvy Technologists: This person didn’t grow up on it, but they still understand the functions of it. Their training should be focused on the big networks that the company is using and how they can utilize those as well.
Reluctant User: This person is aware of the big name networks, but social media is not a part of their daily lives. Their training should focus on introducing the different sites available and also expanding their knowledge base about sites they may already use.
Digital Contrarian: This person believes that social media is just a passing trend and not worth being actively involved in. Their training should include education on why it is beneficial for your business to be on social media.
Digital Newbie: This person typically doesn’t know much about social media, and just isn’t interested enough to look into it and experiment. They don’t necessarily think it is useless, but they don’t think it is useful either.
According to Farris, no matter what group an employee is in, it is important for your company to remember not to force any employee to become involved in social media if they are not interested. It won’t result in quality upkeep and therefore won’t benefit your company.
Lastly, don’t forget to continually monitor your social media pages if your company has them. It is important to have these under the same branding standards and the same portrayal of your company values and goals.
Employees can be a company’s greatest advocates, but on the flip side they can also be the source of bad mouthing. As a general rule, people are more likely to voice complaints than they are to talk about good experiences. This is also true in the online world. The most effective way to manage your company’s online image is through awareness of what is happening in the cyber world and how a company should form social media policies, and the possible legal ramifications that can arise.
Kathryn Dittrick, Attorney at FraserSnyder Law Firm, spoke about the different lawsuits to be aware of regarding social media policy. Those included violation of a right to privacy, retaliation claims, and NLRA discrepancies.
A common misconception is that you can’t fire someone for saying something because it violates their 1st amendment right to a freedom of speech.
“That’s not true,” said Dittrick. “The first amendment only prohibits the government from limiting your speech.”
So if you are an employee of a public agency, then yes you may have a claim. But if you are an employee of a private company, you will not have any possible lawsuits based on this right.
There are important steps that should be followed when managing social media policy.
First, eliminate the employee’s possible expectations of privacy. State clearly that the employer has the right to monitor. Do not let employees be fooled by privacy settings, and such. There should be no expectation of privacy at all for anything they post online.
Second, stay current on the law. There are a lot of states that are coming up with new laws regarding social media and being up to date is critical in adjusting your policies if necessary.
Third, set expectations of when employees, if they can, get online at the work place.
Fourth, you can prohibit unlawful speech but you can’t prohibit all negative speech. There are laws that protect employees’ rights to voice their concerns regarding wages and terms of employment.
Most important to remember when creating social media policy is to be as specific as you can. “Make sure your social media policy is drafted in a very precise way,” says Dittrick, “So that it doesn’t infringe on the employees rights, but it also protects the interest of the company.”
For more information on different legal topics regarding social media you can check out the U.S. Department of Labor website or you can access national law firm newsletters that often contain articles that address social media.