Matt Rebeiro examines social media guidelines and why many are not effectively protecting organisations.
We have all heard our fair share of social media based PR disaster stories. On the face of it, these “disasters” usually originate from one of three sources:
- Brand inactivity in the face of a crisis, such as Eurostar fell foul of this when they failed to respond quickly enough to customers during major delays.
- Brand social media activity that is poorly received, for example when McDonald’s invited customers to share their #McDStories only for the hashtag to take on an altogether more negative life of its own.
- Poorly judged, or out rightly moronic, employee actions, such as when two Dominos employees took to YouTube to show themselves doing something unsavoury with a Pizza.
However, these examples and many more like them are often merely symptoms of a wider issue. Indeed, the cause of all social media PR disasters is culture. Failure to develop the right culture when it comes to social media can have serious repercussions for an organisation.
Culture goes beyond merely having a social media strategy and a set of employee rules. Strategy documents and lists of rules get sent around, scanned by their recipients and summarily filed and then rarely referred to again.
Culture involves employees – and as a result the organisations they work for – understanding what social media is, how it affects each and every employee and how they can use it to the mutual benefit of themselves and the organisation as a whole.
It was such a culture that helped BA deal with both the infamous Ash Cloud and cabin crew strikes of 2010. Having an executive team that understood social media and who were happy to appear in regular YouTube video updates helped to diffuse a tense and frustrating time for travellers.
Similarly, FedEx’s ability to quickly and effectively deal with a rogue employee caught throwing valuable goods over a client’s gates demonstrated an organisation with a culture that ‘got’ social media. This was especially evident in the number of FedEx employees who responded personally to the issue, demonstrating a genuine togetherness.
A culture of social media understanding
A culture of understanding, as opposed to fear or ignorance, in social media can help to limit the chances that an organisation, or its employees, are the architects of their own social media crisis. The right culture is also crucial to ensuring the organisation can mobilise and respond more quickly and flexibly when a reputational issue does arise.
Ensuring your employee social media guidelines are more than a list of ‘don’ts’ is the first thing an organisation can do to ensure its employees aren’t scared of using social media.
Organisations must ensure they strike the right balance between prescriptively forbidding certain actions and empowering employees to proactively engage in positive actions. Equally important is communicating to the workforce the ways in which their responsible use of social media is good for both their career and the organisation’s wellbeing.
Indeed, effectively communicating the mutual benefit for employees and the organisation of using social media can help to embed a proactive, positive culture around social media that can be invaluable in preventing and managing crises.
All too often organisations take the easy option, create a set of employee guidelines, create a strategy for dealing with crises and then feel satisfied that they’ve ticked the right boxes. But this is merely to pay lip service to the issue. To ensure your organisation is properly armed to prevent and manage crises in social media, you need to cultivate a culture of social media understanding.