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Why It’s Important to Train Your Staff on Social Media

June 21, 2010

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Training employees on the use of social media comes down to a risk management issue. If your employees have a good understanding on how social media works generally and you provide very clear guidelines on your company policy, you immediately mitigate many of the potential pitfalls of social media.

I think many companies assume that employees will for example, know what “good judgement” means when using social media when in fact, “good judgement”in the social media context may be sublty (but importantly) different to “good judgement” in other areas of business. Employees need to clearly understand the implications of social media; it’s extensive reach, its permanency and the possibility of contextual miscontruction. ie what it means to “go viral” and the importance of hashtags for clarity as well as search terms. Do your employees understand the permanancy of the written word in the social media environment?

Etiquette is crucial and not to be confused with negating “authenticity”. Training is an opportunity to set expectations around language, courtesy and what is appropriate when representing the company. Again, these guidelines will differ from industry to industry and company to company; a law firm may have very different guidelines to a media organisation.

Training provides companies the opportunity to offer clear guidelines on the process of using social media; who within the company may use official company accounts, how to apply for an account, what disclaimers (if any) are to be used and whether the employee should identify themselves individually (and how – for example some companies use one company account with contributers signing off using their initials to identify themselves). Who authorises social media accounts? Who maintians the passwords and authorisation access? What’s the process if an employee leaves the organisation?

Employees also need to understand issues around privacy, both for the company and themselves. Training can assist employees to understand the importance of protecting intellectual property, confidential customer information and confidential employee information. Copyright and trademark guidelines can also be covered in training sessions so that employees understand the implications of infringement. Another important area for employees publishing posts is defamation and libel.

Are you monitoring you employees? In Australia you must inform your employees if you are doing any sort of electronic monitoring and a training session is a good idea to explain what you are monitoring, why and how. This may also be a good opportunity for a general discussion about monitoring and privacy; where does an employees private social media use begin and end?

And what happens if something does go wrong? Are employees aware of crisis signals, escalation procedures and the crisis plan of action to follow? What happens if there is some negative publicity via social media? Employees who are well trained can act quickly and appropriately and should be better equipped to assist a company quickly remedy any adverse publicity.

Training also allows you to discipline employees if they abuse your social media policy; if they know what is expected of them in their use of social media they have less recourse to unfair dismissal claims should they be terminated due to misuse.

Finally, on a positive note, social media is after all “social’, so training is a great opportunity for a company to further engage their employees. Every employee has the potential to create positive publicity for a company, so why not get them trained up and acting on your behalf.

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