Social media is big business these days.
Over half of Australia’s population is on Facebook, more than 4 million are on Tumblr, and Instagram boasts similarly large numbers. But besides LinkedIn, most social networks serve more purposes than just the professional realm.
This substantial growth of social media adoption brings with it unique risks to businesses that they once didn’t have to worry about. One of these chief risks is that an employee of your business can post questionable content to their social media accounts, which could, by extension, have a potential impact on your business’s image. Then there is also the risk of a disgruntled employee publicly stating their hatred for the company or even you.
This is thanks, in part, to the spontaneous nature of social media. Where someone can quickly share updates of a positive, negative or questionable nature dependent on their emotional state at the time. But as a business, do you have any right to ban employees from using social media or, at the very least, associating their personal accounts with your place of work?
To ban or not to ban
Truth is, banning your employees from social media may not go down that well. After all, it’s a valid argument for them to state that their personal lives and accounts are none of your business, and that’s because they aren’t. Choosing to dictate what an employee can or cannot do or post outside of work hours is a slippery slope, and the type of rule that can turn potential employees off from applying.
You may have some right to express concern if they have public social media profiles, which are commonly found with social networks such as Twitter and Instagram, but for those social networks where they may already employ stronger privacy settings (e.g. Facebook), trying to control their behaviour on those networks could be met with resistance.
You want to have happy employees who are proud to consider themselves a part of your team. Going the draconian route where you monitor and dictate their online behaviour tends to be frowned upon – especially in an age where people are more and more concerned about their privacy, autonomy, and rights to free expression.
So if banning them from social media worries you in terms of employee backlash, what other options are there?
A social media policy
One option is to create a social media policy. A policy such as this usually covers both how social media posts should be presented under your business accounts and how employees should conduct themselves on their own social media accounts. This can include rules such as ensuring they include a disclaimer that says: “My views do not reflect those of my employer”. Other rules could be that they’re not allowed to upload any photos of them in company attire unless explicitly permitted, that certain types of posts (e.g. photos of them intoxicated) cannot be uploaded, and so on.
Social media policies can work for some businesses and be relatively ineffective for others. You could trial some policy rules and see if employees are happy to adhere to them, or even set these rules only for their public social media accounts. Other rules can be refined, such as one that states they can upload candid photos of themselves in casual settings (i.e. having drinks), for example, provided those photos are set to “friends only” and that their profile and cover photo are of an acceptable nature.
Complete disassociation with your brand
Apple is one prime example of a company that places massive restrictions on what its employees are allowed to divulge about their jobs outside of work. These rules include that employees can’t wear Apple attire outside of the workplace, they’re not permitted to list the company they work for on social media profiles (LinkedIn is a single exception), and any talk of Apple cannot be done in a promotional/professional level. In other words, their position as an Apple employee remains at work and is almost entirely banned from being discussed on social media.
While this could come off as extreme, in many ways it’s a logical system. It essentially means your employees are allowed to be on social media and act however they want on it, and they can do so without presenting any real image risk for your company. You’d likely find that this approach will be considered more agreeable by your employees than outright banning them from social media.