Social media is simply another step in the evolution of communication.
Where once we would contact our family, friends and customers via telephone or email, we now also use social media as a communication tool.
The evolution and growth of social media and indeed digital technology is truly astounding.
Nowhere has the shift been more prevalent than in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
A few short years ago it would have been unheard of to consider taking bookings, answering queries or conversing with customers via social media. Now it’s a valid and efficient way to communicate with customers.
Ease of sharing via social media and digital technology provides the power to make ideas, news and conversation spread quickly. There is immediacy that can help businesses spread their message quickly, cost effectively and efficiently.
The immediacy coupled with the blurring of the line between work and home can however cause challenges when it comes to employers and employees understanding acceptable behaviours online.
Most organisations see employees as an extension of their business and thus, by association believe they should be representing the values and culture of the company. Yes, even when not at work.
So why is how we use social media such an issue?
We have all heard the stories of employees posting inappropriate content on Facebook that caused loss of employment, but what about the potential to expose employers to risk such as loss of and/or disclosure of confidential information, discrimination claims, harassment, unfair dismissal, reputation threat or defamation?
No matter if your tourism or hospitality business employs 10,000 or 1, you do need an updated social media/digital policy in place – both to product your business and your employees.
The workplace policy does not have to be complicated, yet should cover a few areas such as:
Your definition of social media.
The term social media encompasses many different types of internet applications that allow user-generated content and multi-directional exchange of information.
Basically, it’s a catchphrase for electronic technology that allows for one to one or one to many conversations. Where it gets confusing is that people assume social media only covers social networking sites, which is not true.
There are reported to be between 6 to 12 different types of social media – here’s our take on it:
- Social Networking Sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn)
- Collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia)
- Social publishing platforms – Blogs and micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter, Medium, Tumblr, Blogger)
- Bookmarking sites (e.g. Pinterest)
- Content communities (e.g. YouTube)
- Virtual & augmented game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft, )
- E-Commerce Sites (e.g. Etsy)
- Review Sites (e.g. TripAdvisor, Yelp)
Ensure you make it clear that the policy is not just limited to the sites and types of media that you list i.e. Facebook or Twitter, but also covers a definitive explanation of digital communication tools.
Maybe we should actually rename it instead of a Social Media Policy, change it to Digital, Internet or just simply Communication Policy?
What’s acceptable and what is not.
Your policy should remind employees that they should not say or do anything on social media that:
- could be viewed as derogatory towards, or disparaging of, colleagues, customers or clients;
- give away or discusses your business’ confidential information;
- has the potential to bring your business into disrepute;
- undermines their effectiveness or productivity at work (i.e. excessive use).
One area we have seen a major increase in the past 5 years is Review sites. Competition to get your restaurant or tourism business to No. 1 on TripAdvisor for a destination can become all consuming.
Ensuring employees know that scamming reviews – creating fake reviews is not acceptable behaviour is extremely important.
Don’t forget to include these types of unethical hehaviours in your Workplace Social Media Policy – spell them out so that there is no misunderstanding of what will not be tolerated.
Be very clear
As an employer, you may not have the right to address any disciplinary action for an employee’s out-of-hours conduct, so you need to be very clear about your position of an acceptable code of conduct online.
Alternatively, don’t dismiss the benefits of employees to help spread your social media message.
Customer advocacy and the use of UGC is a huge part of a strong social media marketing strategy, but don’t forget that ethical employee advocacy is vital also.
They are your brand ambassadors and could be encouraged to assist building the brand online. There is no greater advocate than a passionate employee. Set the guidelines such as time online at work, what can and can’t be said and they will happily assist you build your business online.
The consequences of breaching the policy.
Remind employees of breaching the terms of the policy which may involve disciplinary action or indeed termination of employment.
Social media is here to stay. Therefore, a clear social media workplace policy will not only protect your business, but also protect your employees. A win-win all round.
Keep it Updated
Lastly, don’t forget to update your social media workplace policy and go through it with employees on a regular basis. Digital technology and Social media networks change rapidly, so does how we use them.
There is no question that social media or digital technology is here to stay. Even though evolving quickly it is still a relatively new area, and therefore the laws and considerations as to the role social media plays in the workplace will continue to evolve and change with time.
Remember to make sure your Social Media Workplace Policy is available to all your employees and do train and remind them about it regularly to ensure it is effective.
Until next time…..