Social Media – Rules Are Not Enough

Hundreds of police officers are being investigated for breaches of social media guidelines, according to reports published in the Guardian and the Daily Mail this week.

Incidents include a community support officer posing with weapons on Facebook, an officer inappropriately asking a female to be his online friend during a house visit and racist and homophobic comments.

According to documents obtained by the Press Association 828 cases were reported during a five-year period, creating an embarrassing situation for senior police bosses,

We expect the police to have a higher level of conduct and be more mindful of what they do online. But like many organisations, this report shows that all too often professionals blur the lines between what is and isn’t acceptable.

AKD Solutions undertake a lot work with organisations on optimising social media as a key platform for engaging customers. One thing we strongly emphasis is “Rules are not enough“.

Rewards & Risks
We regularly witness situations in organisations where there is no governance or development and the results can be chaotic. At the other end of the spectrum we see knee jerk “blanket bans” on employees using social media in the workplace.

Neither situation is effective or sustainable, and both have the potential to damage the organisations concerned.

Social media is a crucial tool for customer and staff engagement which needs to be properly planned and implemented. Blanket bans show a lack of trust and no understanding of the enormous benefits social media has to offer.

Useful Tips
Good governance is crucial to ensure that social media has been well thought out, people understand why it’s being used and how to optimise its use. We encourage a Social Business Team model, which brings together all the key stakeholders (e.g. Comms, Customer Experience, PR, Unions etc).  It encourages collaboration and helps to embed Social Media into the  organisational culture.

It’s essential that staff clearly understand the boundaries between personal and professional online use.  It’s not as clear cut as you think. Linkedin is a really useful tool but can blur the lines for a lot of professionals if they are not careful.  When is it ok to “friend” or “connect ” with a customer?  One of clients wanted all staff to have access to social media channels, but wanted to manage the risk of abuse.   So they created a 15 minute video on social media in the workplace.  When staff had watched it and confirmed they understood the content, they were granted full access to all social media channels.

It’s vital to provide the right tools so staff can consistently engage in a way that is authentic, professional and reflects your organisation’s brand values. An example is “Engagement Maps” which are an excellent tool for helping staff to talk to your followers.

Investment in development is crucial. Organisations are willing to invest in telephone skills training  for one to one communications but less so for social media development where the message could be seen by thousands or even millions.

Growing Pains…We Can Help!

Social media is still in its infancy. Infants wobble and topple until they learn how to walk properly. And this reflects the journey you will have. Allow for mistakes and innovation and new ways of engaging customers and staff; but within parameters.

Social media has huge benefits for the organisations that use it well. If you want your organisation to avoid similar embarrassments to the police, contact us to discuss your aspirations and how we can help you