A Social Media Policy can Protect your Corporate Reputation


Time and time again the issue of Social Media is raised in my Stakeholder Reputation workshops. Is it a must? Is it a Stakeholder Engagement tool? What is its value? Should we restrict its access?

Companies are coming to terms with the growth and use of Social Media within and without their organisations and some of the companies that I deal with are grappling with its implications and how to use it in a positive way. Others simply do not allow it and damage their own reputation by not viewing it strategically. Others just implement it without giving adequate thought to potential reputation risk.

The benefits of social media are real, and use of this communications medium as an important Stakeholder engagement tool will likely only increase. However, for organisations to reap the full benefits, it is critical to take a customised, strategic approach to managing the risk of social media vs. reputation.

For me it is important for companies to determine that it fits the purposes of it stakeholder engagement plan and is supported by necessary policies, processes, technologies and roles to manage the risk.

Having a well-designed Social Media Policy is the start. Jeff Bullas define it A social media policy plain and simple outlines for employees the corporate guidelines or principles of communicating in the online world”.

Companies without adequate social media policies are placing themselves at risk of security breaches and reputational damage, among other issues. Last year, a study from Protiviti Inc., a global business consulting and internal audit firm revealed that the majority of UK employees have not been provided with clear guidance on using social media networking sites.

  • Many organisations had no policy in place regarding social media networking
  • Many employees were unaware of such policies
  • Social media usage in the workplace has grown enormously in recent years with more than half (51 percent) of workers surveyed now claiming to engage with a social networking site whilst at work. Almost a third (30 percent) of workers use sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on a daily basis, while more than five do so several times an hour. 

Many organisations do not allow social media activity in the workplace, but this is an unsustainable policy as staff are still able to access social networks from home, posing the same potential risks to the company’s brand and reputation.

In this respect, it is interesting to note IBM’s view. In the spring of 2005, IBMers used a wiki to create a set of guidelines for all IBMers who wanted to blog. These guidelines aimed to provide helpful, practical advice—and also to protect both IBM bloggers and IBM itself, as the company sought to embrace the blogosphere. Since then, many new forms of social media have emerged.

I like Point 11 – “Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. IBM’s brand is best represented by its people and what you publish may reflect on IBM’s brand” See more – IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines

The Gap Inc., struggling to make its brands stand out in today’s crowded marketplace, is turning its workforce loose on social media in an attempt to recreate some of the buzz for which it was known in the ’80s and ’90s.The clothier gives each of its 134,000 employees a no-nonsense social media policy titled: “OMG you will never guess what happened at work today!!” The policy serve as a guide to how a large, multinational corporation can strip away the legalese and provide a real-world manual on social media that keeps the company’s best interests in mind. Read more http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/11088.aspx#

In designing your Social Media Policy, I can highly recommend that you also access the following resource: http://www.jeffbullas.com/2010/02/15/only-29-of-companies-have-a-social-media-policy-is-your-company-at-risk/

Common sense is also required. To prevent any online crisis on Social Media networks, you should monitor the names of companies, brands and employees. To ensure this, you need to develop proactive communication strategies to reduce both online and offline crisis. The simplest way to do this is to:

  • Create Training Programs that show employees how to use Social Media effectively.
  • Share Best Practices that give examples of how others use Social Media and respond to stakeholder interactions
  • Develop Guidelines that clarify in simple terms how Social Media should be used and the exceptions you need to avoid when using these channels.
  • Monitor how staff use Social Media and made the necessary corrections, adjustments or interactions where necessary using influence & guidance.

Employees will stop using Social Media if they feel there are being policed. Instead adopt a light touch policy where you try to help employees do their job better with Social Media and reward those who get it right.

If you’re looking for ways to control your Online Reputation, then ensure you have a well-designed and communicated Social Media Policy in place, one that focus on what’s important: engaging the stakeholder.