Reputation empowerment with Employee involvement
We are ‘living’ more and more in the online world. Businesses are now aware that for them to truly interact with their target audiences they must build and maintain an online presence through social media, rather than just via online advertising. This applies to large, blue chip multinationals and ‘local’ SMEs alike, and has been addressed by many companies with varying degrees of success.
With a massive upside for businesses that successfully use social media, it is perhaps surprising that many employers are wary of getting involved. This may be attributable to a lack of appreciation of that potential or due to the fact that these employers do not fully understand how to use the social media tools available.
Ignorance is not longer an excuse. In the Internet Age, businesses cannot hide behind indifference or an unmanned customer services phone-line; no brand is off-limits, all are open to potentially hostile discussion. Even if your company isn’t engaging with online communities, it is very likely that someone else out there is talking about you online and this could be damaging to your reputation, especially if you are not in a position to respond.
Using social media involves engaging with potential customers, businesses and stakeholders online as well as with anyone else who has an opinion on your company.
It is important to remember that successful social media is an on-going process: reputations are created, established, and need to be maintained. It is also a two-way process. Businesses are expected to have interactive conversations with members of the online public; a brand which simply exists online as a faceless and uncommunicative ‘presence’ will not succeed in reducing the threats to its reputation.
The positives and negatives of employees online
The danger for businesses attempting to build an online presence is that employees may harm the project by using the Internet to post their feelings or worse, vent their frustrations. What an employee posts online, even via a personal account, can have direct implications for the reputation of their employer. Time and time again, the national media has published stories in which employees have damaged their employer’s brand: the policeman sacked by The Met for posting naked photos on a dating website, retail staff in Currys / PC World insulting customers online, and NHS works sacked because of a Facebook game are all salient examples.
There are now also legal implications for anyone posting inappropriate content to sites such as Facebook and Wikipedia which, as an employer, it is vital that you make your employees aware of.
Businesses are not investing enough resources in educating their staff on online reputation management and the consequences of their online actions for the company that they work for. Businesses must take a proactive approach to educating their employees about online literacy or they risk causing irreparable damage to their brand.
Don’t let this put you off building an online presence however; a company’s employee can be its most effective advocate, and can directly sway the opinion of customers and stakeholders. Customers buy a product or use a service if they feel good about the company that they’re buying from, which can be directly impacted by staff actively posting positive sentiment online.
How to educate employees to use the internet appropriately and effectively
Having a more digitally literate employee base will help your company be better equipped to protect its online reputation. To make social media work for a company, employers must:
- Discuss it; social media is about engagement, so talk about it
- Introduce social media standards as part of a company code of conduct, whilst giving individuals room to communicate their ideas
- Make sure all employees are aware of privacy setting options available to them on their online profiles
- Ask colleagues to take down any unprofessional pictures, videos or content of themselves, you or other employees in the company
- Empower employees to use social media to help the company
- Train key members of staff as social media tsars (perhaps with some younger staff who understand the digital landscape)
- Provide training as part of annual and introductory reviews for all staff
Social media is about being responsible for and engaging with a network. By being proactive, educating your employees, and taking charge of your company’s online presence, you can effectively manage your reputation online for the better.