Yesterday I wrote about the latest Goldman Sachs reputation issue, and made the statement that Reputation Begins at Home….what your employees think and do is more import than anything a Company spokesperson says. Nowhere is this principle more evident than in social media. More specifically, in a Company’s approach to social media policy. To some, social media is the Wild West…uncontrollable, prone to “shoot-outs” and fraught with risk. These companies either prohibit use of social media in the workplace, restrict employees from identifying their employer, or regulate the heck out of it with restrictive, complicated social media policies.
But many are realizing that while the mediums are changing, the issue of employees as brand evangelists (or not) hasn’t. Employee tweets aren’t really that different from their conversations with friends and neighbors in the supermarket, at the ball field or the church potluck. The only difference is the size of the audience, the speed of the message movement and most importantly, your ability to know what they think and say, and if anyone is paying attention.
Trust and Relevance are the foundation of reputation. The key question is this: Do you trust your employees to say and do things that make you relevant in a way that builds and enhances your reputation? Or not? If the answer is no, you have a culture problem – not a social media problem.
This is not to suggest that social media policy isn’t important. It is very important. You wouldn’t build a swimming pool in your back yard without teaching your children to swim. How do you make a social media policy that does its job, without crushing your company’s culture and soul?
- Reflect the medium – social media is conversational. It’s short. Pithy even. A long, legal-eze policy sends the wrong message.
- Teach them to swim – rather than provide long, legal sounding lists of DON’T’s or rules, tell them what they should do, and why. Create a common vision and goal for what social media can do for your reputation, your brand and your company – and invite employees to participate and support those goals.
- Keep the DON’T DO list very short. When my kids were learning to swim we had two rules – you never go in the pool, not even a little toe, without a grown up. And you only jump feet first, facing front. We only got into discussion of diving vs. jumping and water depth once they had mastered the basics. If the DON’T list is short and straightforward enough, people will comply.
- Be realistic, and provide a safety net – Let’s face it, #@$%! happens. And when it does, employees need to know what to do, and where to go for help. Speed is the name of the game here…if employees can recognize their own “oops” and get help correcting it, you will fare much better than if you find out once you are a trending topic.
Seems to me that The GAP is getting it right, in terms of policy. Will that translate into social media reviving the brand? Too soon to say. What are the best practices in social media policy? Would love to hear your thoughts.