One of the biggest fears I come across when talking to companies in the financial markets about Social Media is around Reputation Management. Many firms are concerned because everything is so public, there are fears that employees will get trigger happy when the channels are public and not so formal, with no way of deleting messages once they are in the public domain. What most companies don’t realize is that by ignoring Social Media it doesn’t make it go away. Employees are on these channels anyway for both Private and Business purposes and in order for a firm to gain more control over possible risks they need to address the issues by writing a Social Media policy. The rapid growth of these social networking tools in business and by individuals has created substantial difficulties which many companies are finding difficult to address. Employees have begun using Social Media to engage with their employer, confidential information can become public in a matter of seconds and Social Media activity can have a critical effect on brand reputation.
Despite this we still are in a position where many firms are confused about how to tackle online reputation management. One of the main reasons for this is because institutions in the financial markets want their messages to be vetted and go through the processes they are use to so there is a reluctance to change that. Also because many are left scratching their heads wondering what an effective Social Media policy should entail. What many fail to realise is that in reality all they need to do is adapt their existing policies for how the business should be represented for the new Social Media medium. Behaving in a professional manner is no different, whether it’s online or offline. Employee’s know what is expected of them, they need to be aware of their actions and it needs to be made clear that they do not disclose private information online just as they know not to do this offline. Providing employees with a Social Media policy allows companies to provide guidance and a framework around how they need to behave when representing their company.
The easiest way to create an effective Social Media policy is to take information from the companies employment manual, their staff handbook, their IT and news policies, and write a social media policy that fits in around their structure. There needs to be a Social Media policy in place as firms need to have a control structure for employee’s generally around Social Media for the employees own purposes but for business purposes. The policy needs to be created in a way that preempts the possible issues that may come up in social media. Unwarranted discloses outside of the business by employees either though use of social media for private or business uses.