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How Your Employees Engage with Social Media

Even if you're the only person engaging via social media for your company, anticipate that employees or team members or assistants or even agencies will, at some point, complete these tasks on your behalf. Spell out your ground rules for online engagement now rather than wait until you need to hand off the duties to someone else.

Your company's internal guidelines for social media engagement (SME) will often look similar to the public guidelines you post for your online community to follow. That's because the basic tenets of good community behavior work well regardless of the participants or environment.

This list describes some issues to address to cover the way your employees handle SME for your company:

  • Frequency of participation: Even if you already have a posting schedule, you need guidelines to specify how online communities and conversations should be integrated into people's day-to-day work.

  • Approved content: Let your social media editorial calendar be your internal guide for developing and publishing approved content.

  • Tone of conversations: Your brand guidelines inform your messaging map to provide more than the visual elements of your logo — they also guide the personality, tone, and voice of your brand in social media, down to the key words and phrases to use online and the types of content to post, depending on who you're targeting.

  • Response style: Every social network and online communications tool has platform-specific ways to respond and interact. Spell out the way your team needs to respond, such as when to like people's comments on Facebook or how to respond to a retweet on Twitter.

  • Chain of command: Establish a clearly defined system to determine who's in charge. If your organization has different team members, specify who is an employee's direct supervisor and which activities or actions need to be approved or considered by a manager.

  • Policing process: Outline steps for removing inappropriate content or comments online, and spell out who has the power to delete material. Many social networks do not provide different levels of administrative access, so your rules and guidelines will dictate roles, responsibilities, and permissions.

To a certain degree, allow employees to use their best judgment when interacting online. As long as everyone is aligned in terms of values, tone, and overall goals, your team should be able to respond and act as needed, especially if you — or their supervisors — aren't available to respond promptly. Delays in responding can create a negative situation in social networks. Attentiveness and responsiveness can help avoid potential problems.

Address the likelihood that your employees use social media in their personal lives. Add to the employee handbook specific rules for content that your company allows and doesn't allow for at-will employees about their behavior in social networks on their own time and within their own, "private" online networks.

We say "private" because nothing that's posted online is truly private. Even the most locked-down Facebook or Twitter account or e-mail message can produce fodder that's distributed across the Internet. After material is released from a secure computer onto the Internet, the reality is that it can potentially be revealed to the online world.

You aren't immune to the dangers of careless online communications and inappropriate exchanges in social media. One mistake can snowball into an avalanche of trouble for your company. Watch what you say and publish online, and be a role model to your employees in terms of appropriate online behavior.

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