One way to get through this labyrinth is to open honest, frequent communication with employees regarding their use of social media and your expectations for conduct.
“You have expectations with employees regarding their job performance,” says Jolene Griffin with Dairy Management Inc. Expectations for social media use should be no different.
And, invite them to help you promote your dairy business. For example, offer interested employees an opportunity to share Facebook postings or Tweeting duties for your farm’s accounts.
Just be sure to give them the right information, acceptable vocabulary to use with consumers and background tools, such as consumer-tested key messages, so they are equipped to communicate your desired message. Encourage employees to find their own “voice” and talk about things from their perspective, letting their personality shine through.
Also, lay some ground rules regarding personal social media use and how it reflects on their reputation, as well as that of your dairy.
“Remind them that whatever they say on social media lives on forever, meaning that future employers can look back at Facebook pages or Tweets,” Griffin says. “A good rule of thumb is to remind people to never say anything on social media that you wouldn’t say to your 85-year-old grandmother.”
Still, decreased work productivity due to time spent online is one obvious problem to social media use if you are not careful. Legal pitfalls, such as the possibility of an employee revealing confidential or proprietary company information in a social media post, are also a concern.
As companies and farmers flock to use social media outlets for marketing purposes, they must consider how employees can put them at risk and how to protect themselves. The best solution is probably for businesses to adopt a set of clear, written social media policies that are consistent with their organizational culture, suggests Unger.
To this end, Griffin recommends you learn from those who have gone before you and take a page from what has worked for other organizations regarding social media guidelines. Check out this link to part of IBM’s employee handbook.
Finally, retain your sense of humor. Sometimes the best intentions go awry when it comes to social media, and mistakes happen. As long as there was no intentional harm inflicted or criminal intent, learn to make the best of human errors and turn them into a positive for your farm.
Case in point, this exchange from the American Red Cross that stemmed from an innocent mistake from a valued employee who thought she was logged into her personal Twitter account:
The tweet was taken down within an hour, but like everything in social media, you can’t delete anything online permanently. This is the Red Cross response tweet: