Social media is essential in our professional and personal lives. While it offers a host of benefits, it can also be quite risky especially if comments, likes, and shares made by employees are misinterpreted. Last week for example, the court made a ruling about the BBI. This led to a range of reactions from Kenyans and eventually online wars that characterized comments that could be considered deeply offensive, highly provoking, or insightful with regard to tribe and political stands. This is not the only matter that has pulled people together and to opposite sides and led to brutal online wars.
As a business leader, it helps to know about the effect of online engagements on the company’s reputation, whether your employees are famous or not.
The link between employees’ online interactions and company image
There is a delicate link between an employees’ online interactions and company image. We are in an age where comments, likes, images, membership, videos, and shares are subject to being misinterpreted as evidence of the company’s stance on a particular subject.
Some online users, even influential and educated individuals, rarely seek the facts; they quickly take information from certain individuals, bring in unrelated parties such as employers, infuse their perspective and spread it as a fact. And since news spread at a speed of light, such information can be taken up by competitors, by clients as proof of lack of ethics and reason for termination of contracts, or by the offended parties to file lawsuits against the individual or the employer.
How to prevent social media use risks
The best way to prevent the social media use challenge is to draft a social media policy. Luckily, the risks of certain online engagements have appeared in different capacities; lawsuits, loss of lucrative deals and clientele, revocation of work permits, etc. This means that you do not have to wait to witness some of them to know what to include in the draft.
Inform your employees about expected behaviour, whether they are using the platforms in their jobs or for personal matters. Let them know about the delicate link between their online engagements and the company’s reputation, regardless of the time.
Discourage the linking of personal accounts to company devices. This eliminates the risk should an employee’s post be misinterpreted. Some comments can be neutral but sometimes the online community can be very unforgiving. Such information can be perpetuated by competitors who may be keenly looking for a chance to attack the company. In the recent past, someone made a comment using a company’s social media account and that led to questions about the company’s ethical standards and qualifications of its employees.
Emphasize on thorough assessment before commenting: There are some topics that make people itch to comment because they bear a personal meaning. In such cases, encourage your employees to avoid commenting as soon as the topics emerge.
Encourage them to assess the situations thoroughly and consider the effect of their comments on their personal lives and the company and only proceed once they are sure they are safe. This will help them to avoid unintentional attacks on those who may have contrary opinions (which may include clients) or being targets for online bullying that can force them to respond aggressively and being dragged deeper into the wars. Where the employees are famous and you as the employer are publicly known, they should specify that the posts and comments are a reflection of their personal opinions and not yours.
Inform your employees about the impact of online engagements on their professional lives. Some employees, especially the young generations, assume that once they leave the work premises, they are free of their titles or associations with their employers. Others assume that being informed about the link between social media usage to their careers is another way of being denied freedom in the workplace. To quench their thirst for online engagements, some create pseudo accounts where they spew acrid comments on anyone who seems to have a contrary or a ‘not-so-smart’ opinion.
As a skilled professional, assisting your team to map the trajectory of their careers and identify the behaviours that can interrupt that is a sure way of advocating for good use of social media platforms. Inform them that hiding behind another account is not the solution as there is a risk of using the wrong account, being fired, being sued by you and others, and losing out any chances of being gainfully employed elsewhere.
Educate them on how to respond to sensitive topics: During this period, the topics that have stood out are on gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy, mental health, and sexual harassment.
It does not come as a surprise that your employees can find themselves in scenarios where they have to give an opinion online or in public gatherings. And as usual, the comments can be extended to you. Offer training about the appropriate response to such matters.
As a business leader, social media wars are perhaps the worst that you can deal with in your career. This is why it is vital to consider the effects of your employees’ off work engagements and their potential influence on the company.