Don’t let employees damage your small business brand on social media

By Jeanne Yocum

Social media has been a boon to many small business owners. Used correctly, free platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest can help strengthen your brand with existing customers and reach far more prospects than you’d ever be able to afford to reach via traditional marketing methods. But, in addition to embracing the abundant upside of social media, every small business owner needs to be alert to its potential downside.

This possible downside comes in two main forms:

– An employee or someone you’re hired to handle your company’s social media make an error and posts something offensive or stupid on your company’s social media accounts.

– An employee posts something on their social media that reflects badly on your business. Perhaps they say something critical of a specific customer or slam your customers in general in a post in which a photo or video clearly shows them wearing a company uniform…or even shows them in your actual workplace. This is only one possibility of an endless array of stupid things employees have been known to post.

[amazon_link asins=’B00QXXFNR8′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’655003a6-c578-11e8-b9b0-29daaf03e666′]Either one of these scenarios can damage your brand in both large and small ways. As we all know, a social media post may end up being seen by just a small group of people or it can go viral and be seen by millions. If it goes viral, it can even make the evening news! And how this seems to inevitably work, the dumber or more offensive the post, the further it spreads…and the more greater the resulting damage might be.

Employees are an extension of your brand in the marketplace. This is especially true for a small business where each employee plays a significant role. Customers may dismiss a social media error by one employee of a company that has thousands of employees faster than they will a mistake made by one employee at a company that has only 30 employees. That one mistake may put your entire organization in a bad light.

Let’s face it; we now have reached a point where online activity carries the same weight as actions in the real world. So what can you do to protect your small business brand from the type of damage that an errant tweet can bring? Here are three ideas:

How to protect your brand

– Have a social media policy in your employee handbook. (You do have an employee handbook, right? If not, read this post about why you need one.) Here’s a post with good advice from the Association of Corporate Counsel with 10 things you should and should not do when it comes to your social media policy. Pay close attention to what the article says about the legal fallout a social media blowup can cause; while protecting your brand is important, it’s not the only reason you need to put a policy in place. t

– Take advantage of social media screening. More and more companies are using social media screening services in their recruiting process to help them avoid possible hiring mistakes. But you can also deploy such a service on an ongoing basis to alert you an employee’s social media behavior that is at odds with brand of your company.

– Before you hire a social media expert, make sure they really are an expert. Not everyone who calls him or herself a social media expert actually is. In fact, from my observation over the past few years as social media really became the “next big thing” is that many people are adding this skill to their resume without anything to really support it other than that they love using Facebook and Twitter. I’ve seen cases in which someone claiming to offer social media services only have 50 followers on Twitter!

[amazon_link asins=’1478129433′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’8be184c5-c578-11e8-8355-3da45519289a’]Make sure the person you’re hiring to handle social media training in communications and marketing and has a proven presence on their own social media platforms. Do not assume they know what they’re doing or that they understand how to promote your brand just because they say they do. This is definitely a case of “buyer beware” because of the huge downside of mistakes in this arena.

Do not ignore the potential negative impact of social media blunders by employees or vendors. Have a plan in place for how to handle mistakes because if you have no plan, then you are planning for failure.

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