In early 2016, an Atlanta fourth grade teacher was reprimanded about her choice of clothing after posting pictures of herself in her classroom on her Instagram. Several parents complained to the school administration about “inappropriate work-place attire.”
A recent college graduate bragged about her new job while insulting the company on Twitter. An associate from her new job saw her tweet and passed her sentiments on to HR. The new graduate then had her job offer rescinded.
High-profile TV figure, Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet about an Obama administration staff member cost her the reboot of her show.
Time and again, employee’s conduct on social media results in consequences at work. Though employees may be posting on their personal time, outside of work hours, employers are increasingly concerned that their company’s reputation may be harmed by their employee’s actions on social media.
Are employees still brand ambassadors for their company when their work day ends? While employees are individuals with their own thoughts and opinions, they may also be associated with their company’s brand, and their actions on social media can result in serious consequences for them and for their companies. What is Tweeted, Liked, and Shared on social media matters. If employees’ accounts are public, they can function as platforms for public commentary and criticism.
Employers are tasked with protecting their company’s reputation. They may feel the need to intervene when employees’ online behavior could potentially reflect poorly on the company. Employers may find themselves responding to customers and other stakeholders as a result of what their employees post.
How can employers strike a balance that avoids negative impacts to the company’s brand as a result of employees’ social media activities without the employer overstepping their bounds? Fortunately, there are a couple of common-sense solutions to what can be a challenging problem.
First, companies should consider adopting a social media policy so that their employees are clear on how their actions on social media can potentially affect their jobs. More and more high-profile brands are establishing social media guidelines that protect the company without interfering in their employees’ private lives. Adidas and Best Buy are two examples of companies with these guidelines in place.
Adidas’ social media policy allows employees to associate themselves with the company when posting, but mandate that they should make it clear that their posts are personal and purely their own. Sensitive and internal company information should not be shared. They must also uphold proper copyright and reference laws.
Like Adidas, Best Buy’s social media policies allows their employees to affiliate themselves with the company, but employees must include disclaimers that free the company of any investment in their posts. Best Buy goes one step further, and mandates that dishonorable content such as racial, ethnic, sexual, religious and physical disability slurs are not tolerated.
Additionally, both companies require that their employees make it clear that their posts are not brand endorsements.
A second solution which helps to address the problem would be for employees to make their accounts private. Employees can ensure that their personal life remains separate from their professional life by choosing which of their connections have access to their personal social media content.
It is possible for employees to take full advantage of personal social media accounts while still being seen as a good brand ambassador for companies, and companies can be good stewards of their brand while maintaining good relationships with their staff members.