Even the most successful companies and employees have their share of social media gaffes.
From Jeff Bezos’s insensitive vacation tweet to Miele’s stereotyped “celebration” of women, it seems like everyone could use a little corporate social media training. This is how to get started with social media training for employees in 2020.
Why is social media training for employees important?
Social media functions as a digital snapshot of a person: a collection of photos, words, moments, and interactions that are catalogued online.
But unlike a Polaroid or even a film photograph, these snapshots aren’t easily forgotten. For example, although it no longer archives tweets as of 2017, the Library of Congress has amassed an estimated 170 billion tweets since 2010. And they aren’t going anywhere. Social media training for employees – even for digital natives – helps employees of all generations navigate the sometimes-tricky landscape of digital interactions.
Originally, employee social media training focused on posting responsibly and avoiding employment disclosures. Employees needed to know what social media use was acceptable, and what could get you fired. Those guidelines are still important, but today's training must be more robust and respond to the changing social media landscape.
It’s crucial for employers to make these policies clear, for everyone from the stockroom to the boardroom. Because it’s not always as straightforward as it seems, developing a social media policy for your company, as we'll discuss below, is crucial.
These are just a few examples of what your social media training may include that you didn't cover before.
Navigating changes in social media platforms
From the early days of MySpace to the global influence of Facebook and the instantaneous reach of Twitter and SnapChat and TikTok, social media is marked by its variability and capacity for change.
What we consider social media continues to evolve quickly, with new rules of engagement for each new platform. Your policy must take this into account and make room for and acknowledge constant change.
Avoiding dark social snafus
Even the savviest of social media users might consider DMs private, but this form of dark social media interaction can just as easily be taken as a screenshot.
Just as when email was first introduced, there are rules for professional conduct on direct messages, Snapchat comments, and other forms of social media that may not be as obvious (at first).
Using LinkedIn as a professional networking site
LinkedIn has had an up-and-down trajectory, but new features and enhancements (a Facebook-like chat feature and the ability to write, post, and share articles, for example) have brought it back into focus for many people, both job seekers and the gainfully employed alike.
Because it doesn’t seem as public, it can be easy to forget about how everyone is, well, linked in. Newer social media policies will need to take these new capacities into account.
Helping employees engage on Reddit responsibly
Likewise, Reddit is a platform that touts itself as “the front page of the internet,” and it’s likely a place where many people find themselves engaging in conversations that might best be conducted IRL.
This doesn’t mean that Reddit should be avoided – just that there is “reddiquette” that helps users be better digital citizens. Your policy should discuss this and other forum-based sites.
What should a social media policy include?
The 63% of people in the U.S. who say their employers have no social media policy are already at a disadvantage in terms of what’s expected. Help your employees avoid issues online with a solid social media policy today.
While the previous examples generally point to specific websites, every social media policy must embrace the variability that is intrinsic to social media. Your policy should capture general language that steers an employee online, while still being flexible enough to change over time.
Otherwise, social media policies will be different depending on your workplace, but they do share some other elements. Your social media policy should include, at a minimum, the following:
- How to pause: No matter the site or situation, give employees a few questions to ask themselves before posting a comment or reaction online.
- Who is responsible for what online: Who is assigned to post company-sponsored content and who responds? Who covers which accounts? Which types of employees must avoid speaking for the company online?
- The brand message online: This may be the same message in real life, tailored to the specifics of each social media account, but spelling it out is crucial.
- Your policy regarding personal accounts: Since nearly 75% of people in the U.S. have at least one social media account, what are your policies about what employees can post on their personal accounts regarding the company’s brand?
- Company rules for internal social media: Your social media training should also include how employees use internal social media channels. These rules can mirror rules for IRL conduct but should be explicit to social media.
Other social media topics to cover include:
- The basics of your company’s social media platforms (where you're posting and why)
- Consequences for hate speech, violent threats, or other harassing behaviors online (on and off the clock)
- Policies on using personal social media at work
- Policies on identifying employee opinions as their own when mentioning your company in personal social media
- Steps to keeping company social media accounts secure
- How to manage privacy settings on personal and professional social media platforms
- Outline rules of compliance and federal regulations, especially as it relates to sensitive information
How to create social media training for employees
Social media for employees should take into account how much experience they have with the platforms as well as their relevant professional skills. Twenty-year workplace veterans will not approach social media in the same way that a digital native just out of school might.
Keeping that in mind, integrate baseline social media training into your onboarding process so every employee receives it. For new hires, make corporate social media training for employees a required part of the onboarding process (and build it into veteran employees’ regular training). Also, make sure to re-visit your company’s social media policy at least once a year (or after a social media crisis) to make sure it’s still current and functioning as it should.
Finally, optimize your training programs for fast, responsive mobile use if possible. Consider microlearning tools to deliver small bits of just-in-time information when and where employees need it most. For employees who aren't as well-versed in social media, these handy resources can help them check in on what to do and what to avoid.
From engaging with customers to sharing our successes, social media is the way we do business today. Social media training for employees is a crucial part of brand development and reputation management. Taking the time to craft and implement quality social media training for employees gives them the tools they need for high-quality social media interactions that benefit everyone.