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Can You Monitor Your Team's Social Media Without Stalking?

The recent case of a Connecticut woman who badmouthed her boss on Facebook but won her lawsuit against them anyway is causing all kinds of drama in HR departments and board rooms. How should companies respond to a world where anyone can say pretty much anything for the world to hear? How far can policies go in policing social media? More importantly, in the 3 years it will take most companies to draw up a policy, what should managers be doing right now?

The UK-based website Training Zone has some suggestions for putting some rules and processes in place before your employees tweetfacelinkblog all over the place. Here are some of the suggestions:

  • Know what the company's social media strategy is. It's difficult to take people to task for things if there's no official policy. (Telling people to use common sense is, alas, not nearly sufficient).
  • Know the difference between strategy and process. It's one thing to have a rough idea of what you want to accomplish. That's the strategy. The process part is the how, who and in what outlets the company will officially participate.
  • Be clear on owns the policy. If your company is going to have an official social media strategy, someone needs to be responsible for it. Really responsible. Like "fire them if it goes horribly awry" responsible.
  • Make sure people understand the company's policy so there are no misunderstandings. There's no point coming up with a well-written and comprehensive policy without backing it up with well-designed communications plan and training scheme in order to inform employees of their responsibilities. Remember that the company lost primarily because their company policy was too broad and poorly written.
  • Understand how the policy will be enforced and make sure everyone else knows too. Part of this enforcement is helping people understand that if it's on the internet someone (possibly from HR,worse yet--their mother) might see it. Companies and many managers set up Google alerts for their company name, and are often horrified at what they find. What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas, but what happens on Facebook can be seen by anyone with an internet connection.
Notice that none of these includes the notion that (as one manager suggested) you "friend" every single one of your team members. That's just creepy. Remember how you felt when you found out your mom was suddenly on Facebook? Same feeling only mom can humiliate you but not fire you.

I'd add that keeping the conversation going with all your team is absolutely crucial. Giving people the ability to use in-house social media like Yammer or limited access Twitter accounts is a start. Firstly, it eliminates the "I forgot" excuse.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, here's a simple fact. People who are connected to their teammates, constructively engaged with their employer and aware of how what they write impacts people they care about, don't generally go about slagging the company on Facebook or Twitter.

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Photo by flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography
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