You know you need one. Here are some things to keep in mind to craft a highly effective social media policy for your accounting firm.
Every time we hear about an employee tweeting something moronic and offensive or see a new viral video of employees doing horrible things to fast food, we cringe – along with every other brand marketer and HR person in the country. This kind of thing does immeasurable damage to the brands these employees represent, and while you want to believe that none of your staff members would even THINK of doing such a thing, you know deep down that it could happen.
The best way to limit that possibility, short of making perfect hiring decisions every time, is to create and enforce a solid social media policy. We’ve written about this topic in the past (here and here, among other places) because it’s so important a topic. It’s just not something any firm can afford to be without these days. So how do you make a policy that is going to prevent the kinds of disasters we see on YouTube? Anthonia Akintunde offers eight tips to make your social media policy as effective as possible, writing in Open Forum. These are the elements you don’t want to overlook:
- Encourage internal communication of concerns, but beware the National Labor Relations Act. This law, enforced by the National Labor Relations Board, allows all employees to talk about their working conditions online (whether you like it or not) if it qualifies as “protected concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.” That doesn’t mean you can’t still offer and encourage the use of pathways for sharing complaints and concerns within the company instead of publicly.
- Cover what’s confidential. Be completely clear about what employees may and may not share. By letting staff know what information is considered off-limits, you’ll avoid many of the problems that can occur through thoughtless online socializing.
- Spell out consequences. Let your employees know what to expect if their “private” posts go public, or if they’re found sharing information online that could hurt your brand. If they know they’re responsible for mishaps and online errors in judgment, they’ll be more careful.
- Who has the answers? Specify a person who handles questions that arise through social media. Unless you want everyone answering to the best of his or her abilities, it’s wise to have a designated spokesperson for the firm. Also make sure there’s someone to answer questions employees may have about social media situations as they occur.
- Guidelines for engagement. Advise your employees as to acceptable ways to interact online. Stress that being polite and avoiding controversy and conflict are a good way to avoid PR disasters that go viral.
- Outline what’s outlawed. Your policy should clearly indicate that illegal activity is forbidden (duh) and lay out instructions for handling copyrights, trademarks and other proprietary information in their social media activities.
- Make it match your firm. Use your social media policy as another vehicle to imprint your firm personality, culture and style. If the firm is casual and friendly, it’s fine to show that aspect in your policy’s wording and requirements. Just make sure it adequately covers what you expect and the consequences for noncompliance.
- Make it matter. No matter what your social media policy says, it’s useless if it sits on a shelf where nobody reads it. Take the time to really teach what it says and how to use that information. Discuss it frequently, using examples. Answer questions about it, and don’t make staff feel like it’s unacceptable to ask them.
Think about what you’d want to know if you were a new hire who’d grown up with social media. Remember that today’s graduates are used to sharing everything in a way that you’ll probably never be comfortable with. Then teach them what you want and expect, and have fun seeing them take your firm to new places with their constant companions, the many social media platforms that accompany them everywhere.