The speed of information, we see it everywhere; online pictures and videos of events; all news, all the time, in real time, as it happens. Pretty cool stuff, eh?
For a company, social media can be a boon or a bust. Companies can use it to get the word out quickly about products, services, company events, milestones and so on. They can broadcast information to a wide swath of consumers and potential customers.
However, when doing so, somebody better be watching the store and its contents.
Information posted on social media, just as any advertising or marketing material needs to follow the same rules for content and information as any other type information distributed in print, radio, or TV. The rules don’t change. You still gotta follow the same rules.
Social media should be used primarily to drive business to your website which should promote the company, its products, services, and pricing compliantly in accordance with all governing law. Otherwise, you’re asking for trouble.
On the other hand, social media may be used to promote company sponsored activities like charitable events and it should reflect information about the company and its employees in a positive light. This should provide potential customers with a look inside the company to show what it does for the community and the people it serves.
The thing is – companies are made up of people. Guess what, people use social media as well. That means that many of your employees are out there on social media posting stuff about themselves and what they do. Sometimes, their posts may include information about the company where they work. That could be good, but sometimes that can be bad.
Take a look at what happened to a Potlach No. 1 Federal Credit Union in Lewiston, Idaho (Halloween Party Post). For their Halloween office party, four employees dressed as the now famous Jamaican Bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Olympics. They thought it was all in good fun. But after posting the Halloween picture on a social media site, all hell broke loose.
I believe it was not their intention to do anything to negatively reflect on themselves or their company. They apparently thought they were just posting a picture on social media from their company party.
But, that is not how it was received by many. Many people didn’t understand the huge backlash on this picture, but it’s real.
The President of the Credit Union tried to apologize and explain. But, not everyone accepted his apology. Some thought it was no apology at all.
I don’t know if the outcome will be that the credit union loses business, the employees get fired, both or neither. What I will bet on is that the President and these four employees wish that picture was never posted.
Hopefully, the Credit Union learned is that it needs to have a formal, written Social Media policy. Companies need a policy that clearly explains the do’s and don’ts of the company and all employees use of social media.
Part of that policy should delineate the company’s process to monitor social media outlets and identify posts that may violate the policy and the repercussions of such violations.
It’s good to find new and innovative ways to get the word out about your company and all the good things it does.
However, it can be a very slippery slope going from what seems good, informative, and fun to what some may perceive as offensive. Just ask the folks who dressed as the Jamaican Bobsled team.