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Avoiding Social Media Pitfalls in the WorkplaceWith the holidays coming up, our social media feeds are filling up with posts about holiday celebrations. We’re all aware of the omnipresence of social networking, and sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Instagram have become part of daily life. In fact, social networking can be a fantastic business tool to connect, build relationships, monitor trends, and recruit your ideal employee.

But the proliferation of social media can also have a down side for employers: namely, the blurred lines between your employees’ work and social lives. Ideally, you want your employees to be ambassadors for your organization. If their online presence isn’t a positive one, it can have real potential to damage your organization’s reputation.

The reality is that anything employees post online becomes public. As a result, there can be no reasonable expectation of privacy, since content is meant to be shared. And if that sharing reflects negatively on your organization, it can have huge implications for your organization’s success.

In Canadian law, there is a growing body of jurisprudence demonstrating that what employees do online can be used as evidence of misconduct at work, even when social media use is outside work hours.

So what can you do to make sure your employees’ social media powers are used for good in your organization? Implement these 5 tactics:

1. Check yourself. Before you can take a stance on employee online conduct, make sure you’re modelling appropriate online conduct. Set up a Google alert on yourself so you can track online chatter, and make sure your social media profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are updated regularly, and accurately reflect an image of the organization you’d like your employees to emulate.

2. Use policy as a preventative. Spell it out and make it easy for your employees to know what does, and does not, constitute acceptable representation of your organization on social media. As an employer, the influence you have over what employees post online really depends on your policy. In some cases the course of action is obvious. For instance, if the employee’s actions represent human rights violations, or constitute bullying or harassment, immediate action is necessary. In other instances, misconduct on social media is less overt- this is where having a clear social media policy is essential.

Help your employees use their #SocialMedia powers for the good of your organization! Twitter_logo_blue

3. Have a strategy. It’s inevitable that at some point an employee will cross the line and post something inappropriate online. The question to first answer is whether they did it intentionally or not. If it wasn’t intentional, revisit your policy and make sure they are clear. If it was intentional, then have a plan for discipline, and include the disciplinary steps along with your social media policy. Make this strategy as detailed as possible so that employees are aware of the potential repercussions of their online actions.

4. Make sure they know about it. Misconduct online is often not intentional, but stems from a lapse in judgment. Often, employees just aren’t thinking about how their actions reflect on the organization because it’s not top of mind. With that in mind, make sure employees are aware of your organization’s social media policies and your social media strategy. Make the policy an integral part of the onboarding process, and include it in the employee handbook.

5. Use their influence. Employee social media use can be a great marketing tool! Studies show that employees who use various digital communication platforms may also be more productive, creative, and collaborative at work – definitely something to encourage. If you give some employees license to speak on your behalf, consider having a separate set of guidelines to help them determine how to represent the organization.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Do you have employees who are constantly updating their online statuses? Use them – get them on board with pinning, tweeting, liking and sharing on your behalf to promote your brand and build your presence.

If you need a hand navigating the murky waters of employee social media use and policy, reach out and let us know. We’re happy to help!

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