Last Word: Embrace Social Media Carefully

While an average of 178 individuals per company are posting, tweeting, or blogging on their organizationメs behalf, only 25 percent of companies offer social business training to their employees.

By Peter Post, Director, The Emily Post Institute

Are companies really embracing social media? It appears so. The average midsize or large company (1,000 employees or more) has 178 “social media assets,” according to the Business2Community Website. That means that, on average, 178 individuals are tweeting, blogging, or posting on behalf of their organizations on company social media outlets.

Why are companies so intent on having employees blog, tweet, or post? The Business2Community Website points out that “marketers rate social media as the second-most important factor (64 percent) in search, behind only strong content (82 percent).”

As long as participation is done positively and with the best interests of the company in mind, companies will reap the benefits of social media marketing. The pitfall companies face is when postings damage the brand image. What should be unnerving about these statistics is the fact that while an average of 178 individuals per company are posting, “only 25 percent of companies offer social business training to their employees.”

That’s a lot of power and access without any guidelines or training.

Here are five tips for social media managers to use as a jumping-off place to safeguard their organization’s brand image:

  1. If you don’t have one already, establish a company social media policy.  It’s good business to have an ironclad set of in-house policies that spell out what constitutes proper use of the company’s social media presence. It’s equally important to spell out the consequences for inappropriate use. Training on both is imperative. You can visit www.emilypost.com/socailmediapolicy to take a look at the policy we’ve created for The Emily Post Institute. Every employee and intern has access to our Facebook, Twitter, blog, Website, Pinterest, and YouTube presence. By signing our social media policy, employees commit to our established guidelines for appropriate use.
  2. Make sure that the people who are representing your company online are putting their best foot forward. Profile pages should reflect the professional nature of an employee’s online responsibility. For instance, headshots should be professional, not avatars or beach vacation shots. Again, a quick training program on how to create a professional online profile is in order.
  3. Google yourself and your company regularly. You’ll be amazed at what’s out there that you don’t know about. If anything is incorrect or inflammatory, deal with it. Don’t assume just because you’ve Googled yourself and your company once, that you’re covered. Do it frequently.
  4. Engage with any criticism or feedback. The point of these channels is engagement, so engage. Nothing will turn off a potential customer or brand evangelist faster than posting questions and comments about your products and services and hearing nothing from you but silence in return. That said, employees should be trained on how to respond professionally to questions and comments in social media—this includes guidance on tone and writing style.
  5. Be scrupulous in the sourcing of any content or photos you post online. Whether it’s images on Pinterest or customer satisfaction statistics from a recent poll you placed on Facebook, accurately source any material posted on your company’s social media channels. Transparency, honesty, and accuracy are integral to building a trusted and respected image for your brand online.

For more on this topic, check out Daniel Post Senning’s forthcoming book: “Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online,” coming April 16 from Open Road Media.

Peter Postis a director of The Emily Post Institute (http://www.emilypost.com/seminars), great-grandson of Emily Post, and co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business.”

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