Let’s talk politics.
What’s your view on Trump? … on Covid shutdowns? … on abortion, LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, the border wall? Was the election “stolen” by the Biden team?
Do you know how each of your employees feel about these hot-button issues?
One false move on social media by one of your employees can cause devastation to your business.
Do I have your attention?
First, a True Social Media Story That Should Terrify Any Business Owner
Just to set the stage to make sure you understand how serious this topic is, allow me to share a story of an actual set of events that happened recently to one of our clients. This client has given us permission to share their their story as long as we remove any reference to who they are.
Company A has an employees (we’ll call him Bob) who frequently uses Facebook, on his own time, to argue with people online about politics and related issues. Now, keep in mind that this employee is NOT using the company Facebook account and is not doing any of this on company time.
Somewhere along the way, things go wrong.
An individual online becomes enraged with Bob. They can see on Bob’s profile that he works for Company “A” and decides to contact Company “A” directly to tell them about the “hateful”, “racist” things Bob says online. The person answering the phone is completely unprepared for a call like this and did not handle it to the satisfaction of the caller.
Within 3 days, Company “A” is being “flamed” online by one of the online accounts that purports to be an “official Black Lives Matter” social media account. Instantly, hundreds of phone calls, emails, certified letters, and THOUSANDS of social media posts pour into Company “A”. Threats are made.
At one point over 200 of Company “A”s customers were contacted directly through social media or email, even phone calls in some cases – blasting Company “A” as a racist company and that if they don’t stop using Company “A” – they will be “outed” on social media as supporting racism.
Yep. This all started with an employee posting something on their own Facebook account on their own time.
Do I have your attention?
How to Handle Social Media in 2021
We see a lot. We manage hundreds of social media accounts, we post thousands … probably tens of thousands of posts, and we catch all the comments and feedback from all of them. We have a perspective and experiences that you (hopefully) simply can’t have.
Here is our 100% no-holds-barred recommendation for how your business should handle social media in 2021:
- Post NOTHING political. Don’t make jokes, don’t even acknowledge the name of the president. Don’t express support for BLM, LGBTQ, border walls, climate change, nothing! Even the topic of Covid is enough to blow things up. Focus on your business, your work, your customers. Period!
- Develop a Social Media Policy immediately (more about this below).
- Actively monitor your own company website, your blog, your social channels, and periodically review the social channels of your employees. Make sure there isn’t anything sitting around anywhere, from a couple of years ago that was acceptable then, but that would piss someone off today. Remove it!
For my free-speech, freedom-loving, old-school business owners who are reading this. I am sorry. I hate that I have to make this recommendation, but you haven’t seen the ugliness that I’ve seen.
What Should Be In The Social Media Policy For Your Employees
There should be 3 parts to the policy.
Part 1: The Prologue
In this section you write a paragraph or two about the beliefs and values of your company. Something fluffy and kind and inclusive. Something that “doesn’t tolerate” hate. Your company was founded to improve the lives of people, etc. etc. This must be spelled out carefully.
This section is super important because you will share this with your employees AND this will be the exact statement you send out in a press release, post on social media, tell the news reporters, etc – if anything ever goes wrong.
This would also be the EXACT thing that the person who answered the phone for Company “A” (above) should have said when the phone call came in. It might have avoided the whole thing! Imagine yourself having to say this in a moment of crisis.
Part 2: The Actual Social Media Policies
List out what is and is not acceptable behavior. Keep in mind, you are legally able to impose reasonable expectations on your employees, even on their personal time, as a condition of employment. As an employer, you have every right to ask employees to refrain from conduct that could reflect negatively on your business or on your customers.
Here is a quick list of items you may want to consider to have in your policy:
- Refrain from racist, sexist, and hateful content and conversations
- Refrain from violent, sexual, and drug-related content online
- Refrain from any comments or discussions about customers or potential customers online
- Refrain from criticism of any coworker, supervisor, or the company itself online.
This is just the beginning. You will want to hash these out more. If you need help crafting your company Employee Social Media policy, let us know, we can help. Also, it might be a good idea to have your attorney review it. Those folks are there for a reason!
Part 3: Enforcement
This part is super-important. Without outlining the enforcement mechanisms of the policy, it has no “teeth” and affords your business no protection!
Consider the following possible items you may wish to include here:
- Monitoring and Review: You maintain the right to review the public social media accounts of your employees randomly and periodically to ensure compliance.
- Content Removal: You maintain the right to request, and in some cases demand that specific content that is in violation of your policy – be removed.
- Consequences: Failure to adhere to the policy can result in warnings, suspensions, or even termination – pending review and discretion of management.
Implementation of Employee Social Media Policy
Once your policy has been developed and reviewed by your attorney. You will need to implement it. Depending on your approach, this can actually be a great team-building exercise, or it can cause friction. We’ve seen it happen both ways.
If you decide to introduce the social media policy in a group setting, you must be VERY careful. This could cause the same hot-button topics to surface. These can easily take center-stage for a large-group “debate”. Be careful! You may not know all of your people as well as you thought you did.
A better way may be to handle this one-on-one. Hand each employee the policy, review it with them, have them sign it, answer any questions. Make them feel comfortable.
Then, once they have had an opportunity to digest it, come back for a small group or large group TRAINING a few weeks later. A policy is only as good as the training and instruction that goes along with it!
How to CYA Even Further
I have 2 more great tips that have helped actual clients of ours. These are real world situations and solutions.
- Hold a TRAINING at least once a year. I actually recommend a 10 minute “training”/reminder every 6 months.
- Have each employee sign-in and date at each “training”. You can further have them sign a paper that states they are aware of the policy, have received training on it and that they are currently adhering to the policy. This is a legal protection in case of extreme abuse of your policy … and it covers your butt if you have to dismiss an employee because of an extreme violation.
I hope this helps!