You can spend years building your brand, but without a solid understanding of social media and its potential risks – and a social media policy in place – your brand is vulnerable to reputational damage, as well as legal or security problems.
Even small companies with a two or three-person team should know about the dangers of social media, and brief the staff accordingly.
Messages, images and video clips on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram can go viral in seconds, reaching millions of people, and once online, the content is there forever.
It is important, then, that you and everyone in your company stick to a few social media rules, and be aware of the tools at your disposal that can protect you.
- Have a social media policy in place. It’s all too common for a company to have to apologise for an employee’s thoughtless Facebook post or Tweet. A social media policy outlines how an organisation and its staff should conduct themselves online.
In the policy, some examples of prohibited social media conduct should include posting commentary, content or images that are defamatory, pornographic, harassing, libellous, or that can create any negative perception of the company brand. Also, employees should never post something negative about a client or potential client. The policy should be in plain English, to ensure everybody understands it.
- Be guarded about what’s out there about yourself and your company. Google search your name and name of your company from time-to-time. Activate Google alerts for your company, and on your own social media profiles, be protective of your privacy and vigilant of who you invite as friends/followers.
Don’t share personal information, including your birth date, address, ID card or ID photo that can be used by fraudsters to steal your identity. And remember, even if your profile is set to private, you can’t control what your friends will do with information you post.
- Be aware of defamation Defamation is damage to your reputation caused by another, and it’s never been so easy with the advent of social media. Think carefully before sharing images or controversial messages online or via mobile, as if it’s offensive or defamatory, it can lead to legal action
Conversely, you have the right to request that a defamatory post is removed and if it is not, take disciplinary or legal action against the offender. So be the legal editor of your own and your company’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.
- Behave impeccably in branded vehicles or clothes Ensure you and your employees are well behaved especially when in branded vehicles or clothes, as motorists or observers are quick to take photos or videos when somebody transgresses and then post these online.
- Social media during a crisis All social media platforms should be regularly monitored regardless of whether a crisis has arisen or not, but a crisis will require extra vigilance.
Any mistakes or negative posts should be dealt with immediately, with correct information communicated by the individual appointed to do this. Never argue online, and provide regular updates.
If necessary, send out an apology, refrain from posting any more posts and stay offline until a social media strategy is agreed and the matter is resolved