Julius Duncan's Blog

Brands for a social age

A cultural approach to social media guidelines

Examples of company employees creating Social Reputation issues or crises are numerous. A common theme is for staff to attack their customers in a conversation with friends, and/or colleagues, on their personal social networks. These  comments get picked up by the crowd and amplified online. When they achieve enough momentum mainstream media run with them as an easily acquired newsworthy story, giving further legs to the sorry tales of customer hatred. Staff at each of  Ryanair, PC World, and Virgin Atlantic all gained infamy in 2009 for their comments about customers. In the case of Virgin Atlantic thirteen cabin crew were sacked.

So, as an employer, how can you prevent this happening to you? Sorry, but you can’t. There is always the risk of unintentional slip ups, ignorance, or rogue staff with an axe to grind, putting your organisation in a similar position. 

But you can mitigate the risks through a set of Social Media Guidelines. These Guidelines are designed to provide staff with a framework for what you consider appropriate behaviour within social media.  There is a huge range of guidelines out there, ranging from several pages, to just a few words.

This diversity reflects the unique culture of every company or organisation, and culture should be the key consideration when you’re creating them. So don’t spend weeks drafting policies in an ivory tower, dig into the culture of your teams, think about your customer service approach, your brand and your overall tone of voice. Talk about it, run some workshops to find out what your frontline staff think, kick out a set of guidelines that are a ‘living document’ and take feedback.

In this way you’ve got a chance to create something that can be ‘lived’. And that just might stop you joining the growing list of self-inflicted crisis case studies.

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