Many of you know that I grew up a military brat. My dad retired from the Air Force after nearly three decades of service to our country.
What I haven’t shared is that some of my summers were spent as a young pup helping my grandpa run a general store in the county.
Customers would come in, place an order with Grandpa and wait at the counter while my cousins and I fetched the goods off a remote shelf.
When we returned, Grandpa would ring up the total. The customer would count out the cash and receive a thanks for their business.
Today, I went to a modern supermarket. Not only did I have to steer a wobbly shopping cart down the vast aisles of goods, but I ended up checking myself out. I ran the goods over the scanner, bagged the groceries myself, swiped my credit card and left.
No one even said thanks. My grandfather must be spinning in his grave.
Times are continually changing. If I were starting in the dealership- compliance consulting business today, the cool job would be that of the guy who follows all the dealership employees’ Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Unfortunately, many staffers who are active with the various social-media outlets hit “send” before they filter the message.
There are pitfalls. For example, sarcasm does not play well in social media. Voice inflections don’t come through online. Humorous comments often are interpreted as insults. Smiley faces don’t always convey the message.
Many of these active social users are dealership employees. They don’t always have a filter when they are having a bad day.
You must have a social-media policy in place that explicitly lays out what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior from your employees when they hit the Facebook or Twitter icon on their smartphone.
Here are a few guidelines you should consider when crafting your social-media policy:
Put it in writing. A written policy lets your employees know you are serious. Have them sign an agreement to abide by the policy. It gives you leverage in the event they don’t comply.
Define what you mean by social media. Don’t limit your policy to just Facebook and Twitter. Also include blogs and social-networking websites for both professional and personal use. Any Internet opportunity to send a message should be included.
They ain’t the boss. It is your company. You have your heart, soul and bank account invested in it. If an employee decides to comment on your company’s business, it must be as an employee, and so disclosed. Neither should they imply that they are speaking on behalf of your company.
Get your own logo. Let your employees know through the policy that your logo is yours for your marketing use, not theirs for Internet postings.
Keep it confidential. You have trade secrets. You have customer lists. Anything that you consider proprietary or confidential must be kept in-house and not posted on the Internet.
Prior approval. It is not appropriate to ask for forgiveness for something an employee posts. The employee must receive permission from an appropriate management member before posting something about the company.
Ability to remove. Reserve the right to remove offensive postings.
Social-media optimization is a booming industry. Making good use of social media to enhance your business is a good idea. Just beware of its potential dark side and protect yourself with an effective employee-use policy.
Gil Van Over is president of gvo3 & Associates, a national compliance consulting firm. He can be contacted at [email protected] and 312-961-9065.