|By Ted McLaughlan||
|January 25, 2010 01:00 PM EST||
I’ve been asked from time to time by businesses about how to educate employees on using Social Media – from two perspectives. One perspective is simply as part of a broader Internet use policy, to help employees stay safe and protect information assets. Another perspective is to encourage employees to support their business in their daily online activities, should they choose to do so. This is essentially giving employees as “social media enthusiasts” the tools and guidance they should get, to help them positively contribute to the overall online marketing efforts of their employer.
Following is some template guidance that can be used and shared with employees. Let us know how this can be improved or updated. Additional consulting regarding planning and implementing social media programs for businesses and organizations is available via KME Internet Marketing in DC.
Use of Personal Social Media to Support ABC (Employer)
This non-legal memo contains straightforward, general advice regarding things to consider when using Internet Social Media to promote your employer. While ABC (Employer) may or may not have an “official” Personal Social Media or Internet Use Policy at this time – these additional guidelines should be very helpful in maintenance and growth of your relationship with ABC, where use of Social Media to promote ABC is concerned.
Note this guidance can and should also be used to promote the area and industry your employer serves – i.e., from an Economic Development or "Place Marketing" perspective. By promoting your neighborhood, county or city for example as a great place to visit or live, this helps promote the general business climate and possibly attract new customers and employees for your company. Here’s an example of how some businesses and employees are actively promoting Loudoun County VA online.
The Internet is a great tool and venue to use for promotions and advertising, whether for personal reasons (i.e. promoting yourself, your cause or interests), or for promoting businesses, products and events, whether commercial or nonprofit. ABC does draw a clear line between actively engaging particular employees in their online marketing and communications strategy, and simply providing guidelines for personal Internet activity (i.e. not related to, or requested by the employer).
ABC is currently engaged in many different kinds of online (and offline) advertising and marketing efforts for its business and brand, such as posting links about upcoming specials and events on its website, in various newspaper and social media websites, and on local search engines (like Google). ABC is directly paying service providers and specific employees to do this - this document provides guidelines for all other employees, partners or contractors.
Employees of ABC, like employees of just about any other kind of business, aren’t required or expected to market, advertise or otherwise promote their employer in any way, unless it’s specifically a part of your job description or contract. If marketing isn’t part of your job, it’s usually better to check first with your supervisor or employer if you’d like to promote your company or services on your own – this will help avoid any risks or issues based on mis-communication. There may be some ways you can help promote the business and your role in it, that are aligned with the company’s business strategy, operations, legal and personal privacy protection responsibilities. There may also be some specific training available.
It is typically helpful in one’s personal, professional development to support your employer’s public presence, whether directly or indirectly. Using a restaurant as an example, if you really like the restaurant menu or a particular entertainer, starting some “buzz” and telling your friends and family about it is a good thing. Proudly wearing an ABC-supplied shirt or hat with the ABC logo in public can draw positive, helpful attention to ABC. The more positive conversations or impressions you generate, the more ABC and its employees benefit over the short and long run. Likewise, negative or conflicting impressions about ABC can quickly spread, whether intentionally or not…your family of employees should always be supported with the respect and professionalism they deserve.
Social media on the Internet is a much-discussed venue for sharing information and engaging others. Social media is generally easy and quick to use, can be really helpful in spreading the word, and enables interesting ways to see and share videos, music and pictures. Social media includes websites you may already use, like MySpace.com, Twitter.com and Facebook.com – along with many other kinds of Weblogs (Blogs), “Chat” applications and other bookmarking or review-oriented sites. While social media can be really helpful and entertaining, using it for any reason is not without certain elements of risk…just like any other use of the Internet.
Risks include others finding out your personal information, damaging your computer, possibly stealing information or money from you, or otherwise intruding on your personal, family or professional privacy. Risks also include damage to reputation – whether that of your own, someone else’s or even that of a business. Damage to reputation takes many forms, and on the Internet, it can be very hard to recover from. Risky online behavior and negative online postings (about anything or anyone) can also be damaging to your career and employment status – so be careful and safe on the Internet, especially using Social media. An example set of good guidelines for “engaging in public discourse” is available at http://www.sun.com/communities/guidelines.jsp . Take a look, and let us know if you’ve got any questions, or would like more information.
IF you do use the Internet and Social Media regularly, and IF you decide to share or point out positive information online about your employer (or anything related to your job or industry), there are some helpful, additional guidelines and methods to take note of here. This advice can only help your contribution be as positive and effective as possible (and help avoid some of the risks mentioned previously). Again, ask others who know for more advice, or let us know if you need help with questions or issues.
- Bookmarks – if you see news, an article or website on the Internet about ABC, and you like it, feel free to share the link with others – using bookmarking tools like Digg.com or Mixx.com.
- Sharing – if you find an article, advertisement, picture or other information about ABC, its events or entertainers – feel free to share it with others through your Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or Flickr account. This can be especially helpful for an upcoming event or product announcement. Do be extra careful about infringing on copyrights, brand trademarks or personal privacy of others – for example, posting videos identifying other people online without their permission.
- Following, Friending, Fans – for those of you who regularly use Twitter or Facebook, you know that sometimes other people or groups may start social, online conversations about topics you’re also interested in; by joining the group, or following such a person, that helps build both your and their credibility and influence regarding the topic. If the topic relates to your employer or industry, all the better! Also check ABC’s site for “RSS” feeds – subscribing to these with an RSS reader is a quick and easy way to keep up with news and events.
- Reviews – there exist many forums and online websites like Yelp.com or more industry-specific sites that encourage fans of local businesses to record their reviews; if you like a business, it’s always helpful to let others know about it. Be truthful, and don't post unwarranted negative reviews about the competition!
- Traveling around town – there are some applications that allow you to notify others of your location-based interests; for example Brightkite or FourSquare on your GPS-enabled mobile phone – these location-based social networking tools are great to let others know where and when you’ll be visiting ABC!
- Your own site, blog or emails – it’s always nice for a business or organization to get positively mentioned or linked to, from somebody else’s website – especially with helpful, professional comments and descriptions. Let ABC know about your site, and your support – ABC may find it helpful to promote you!
- ABC email list – ABC has its own website, and may (or does) also have additional website and group presence on social media sites – if you want to stay up-to-date with ABC services and events, register for available email list notifications, and let others know they can too (emails can be forwarded).
- Your social or professional profile – many professionals provide personal details such as their employers, the type of work they do, and certifications on networking sites like LinkedIn.com or Facebook.com; this is generally a helpful thing for professional growth and networking, but you’ll want to be sure to not reveal any particularly sensitive details about your work, employer or family. Stick with the basics, like “I work at ABC in Northern Virginia” – but avoid giving out non-public information (like your work hours, employer team profile, home address, family names or home telephone number).
- Keywords – any information you post on the Internet is more helpful to your employer, if it includes words and phrases that are associated with your employer’s business or industry. For ABC, great phrases to use include things like “[insert key phrases here]”. If these words are actually used as a website link (i.e. one clicks on the phrase and is taken to www.[ABC].com, for example), even better.
- A note on Web Links – some of the very most helpful things to a business on the Internet, are “hyperlinks” (i.e. web links) pointing back to the business website. The more, the better, especially if the links are from very popular, well-read websites. Therefore, anytime you post information about your employer or industry on the web, be sure to use a good link – it’s helpful both to the business, and to readers, and search engines really like to see these. If you know that someone else will be posting information you provided (like a reporter or a newsletter editor, online or printed), ask them to include a hyperlink.
Thanks for reading through this material about your Employer and Internet Social Media. There are many other resources available to you; search around the Internet, ask someone who knows, or check back with us.
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