This week I’ve been watching a favorite restaurant do their own social media. Normally I love seeing people at least try these tools on their own, even if they do it wrong, but in this case it is making me cringe. What are they doing wrong, you ask?
1) Forcing their employees to get personal accounts on a variety of social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and more. This is uncool for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that social media use is a very personal choice for people, and not the right choice for everyone.
2) Forcing these employees to then a) give the account info to customers for connecting in addition to the company account info, instead of just giving folks access to the company accounts and b) to use their personal accounts to promote the company. No, no, no. This is all kinds of not ok!
3) Requiring password access to the employee accounts. Employees – do not give your employer access to your personal account this way. Stand your ground. By giving the employer or employer’s representative this kind of access you essentially allow them to impersonate you at will on social networks, if they are especially evil, and to see your private interactions and info if they are somewhat less evil. Even if they have it and never use it, really – how can you think this is ever ok? Defend your space and your right to a personal life separate from your workplace.
Companies, you have no right to require your employees to use social media, much less to use it in their own name then to promote you. That crosses a line. It violates boundaries, breaks laws, and in some cases enables cheating on social networks, among other things.
Personal accounts are none of the business of the… business as long as the employee doesn’t defame them, and it should be the employee’s choice to represent the company in that venue and not be required to be used for the company.
Instead, simple employee guidelines should be in place as part of the company employee manual for those who do have personal social accounts how to represent the company should they CHOOSE to do so and how to handle disgruntled ex employees and other issues, and employees should be given posting access to the main company profiles and instructed to post using their initials under the company umbrella instead.
Companies if you’d like help navigating the tricky waters of bringing employees online and having them help man the official company accounts, reach out for it. But for pete sake don’t invade your employees’ lives just to make a buck. It’s actually worse than automating social using tools like PAL, and you all know how I (and your customers) feel about soulless automation.
Many in the online space remember Heather Armstrong, better known as Dooce, and how she was one of the first people to get fired for their blog. That seemed to be in keeping with the corporate climate then and now, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: that needs to change. Almost every company should be tapping into the resources they already have to reach this new online space, especially in these times of a tight economy.
One of the first things I tell a new client is that part of the evaluation I make of their office is determining the existing resources they have to create a successful social media presence without undue expenditures on their part. I consider the employees of a company part of a company’s social media resources. I always recommend having me help them set a policy in their employee handbook that handles online presence and covers issues like privacy and basic conduct online, then include their existing staff in my training sessions.
Every employee has down time. Even the most over worked have a few minutes each day to play around online. I think companies who frown on corporate time used for a bit of personal fun are missing the mark. Yes, clear guidelines should be in place to make sure that your employees aren’t posting confidential information, and I do recommend choosing one or two “point people” to become the bulk of the company presence online, but there is no reason why your other employees can’t also disclose that they work for you, talk a bit about what they (and the company) do, and help make your brand more accessible.
The one or two “point people” you choose should be people able to get things done within the company. These people should become your help channel, your news conduit, your marketing source for social media. Think of them as the @comcastcares or @zappos for your brand. Then you should have other employees as minor points of information and news (Zappo is a great example of this in action as they have a number of employees on Twitter and other platforms). Above all else, everyone in the social media space for your company should be personable and make sure to include fun, personal tidbits in with the corporate. It makes your brand seem more likable, more accessible and creates a fan base for your service or product.
It is my opinion that anyone telling you to hire one person to be your company spokesperson online is leading you astray. Yes, you absolutely need social media training, a guide, if you will, to come in and help you and your employees learn the best practices of social media. This includes helping you pick the social media platform (or platforms) you are most comfortable with (not everyone needs Twitter, people) and learning how to use them in an effective and efficient way. It is much more cost effective to pay someone (yes, someone like me or others who do what I do) to come in and teach you how to help yourself online than it is to spend loads of money on an annual salary for one person to “brand you”. You are not a cow. Brand yourself – use existing resources, get some outside training and best practices in place, and let your employees really be part of the process. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.