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Social media allows businesses the opportunity to put forth their branded image in front of their clients and prospects. Small businesses use social media for customer service, advertising, and engagement. It could be the business owner doing the social media postings or he or she may have the office manager or marketing manager doing the social media postings. Or they have hired a social media agency doing their social media postings. Nevertheless, what happens if an employee posts something about their workplace? Or posts something that is not reflective of best behavior? That particular posting does not reflect the company’s philosophy, mission or branded message that the business is trying to represent?

We as business owners usually have policies on how to dress, how to conduct ourselves with customers, how to answer the phone, how to handle absences, and so forth. Social media policy addresses how employees should take in consideration of any postings that they do on behalf of the company or how it reflects back to the organization.

Let me share with you my experiences as a business owner of two brick and mortar businesses. One where I did not have formal policies in place and the other I did. The one place where I did not have formal policies in place, we were a very small business consisted mostly of part-timers and volunteers. I was the only full-time operator there. We were tight knit, totally devoted to our customers and loved what we do. I did most of the social media postings, encouraged others to do likewise on my behalf, basically asking them to share my posts or retweet my tweets. We were all females and I had two males – who took all the female hormones and teasing’s in stride. I had no issues with social media postings done by my part time staff or volunteers. Why? I can only equate to the culture and morale we had there. Maybe age was the factor – we were all older adults. I don’t know. I never bothered with having to have policies. We all supported one another. If one was out of line, others stood in line to let that person know. But afterwards, we had a group hug. Different time, different place.

The second business – I was the only female and the staff were young men – in their twenties and early thirties. I had taken over a business where morale was low and there were no policies in place. We were in the technology sector taking care of small businesses and nonprofits. I felt that the business needed some structure since my staff was accustomed to coming and going as they pleased. Additionally, I also provided the staff company phones for their on-call services. For that reason, I wrote an employee manual and human resources policy; in the new policy, I outlined social media policy. Additionally I set myself to be an example, reflective of what was set in the manual. It was a good thing because as I started networking in the new community as the new business owner who had taken over a business in town, I had some business owners share with me postings done by my employees. They were not favorable, needless to say. Now, they had done it BEFORE I had them sign the employee manual and human resources policy. I was able to check their profiles and saw that they stopped postings about the business after they signed the policy. Did I talk about it with them? The answer was no. Why? Because it was before the policy and I could not do anything about it. If they had continued after they signed the policy, then I had every right to do what was stated in the company manual for violating any of the policies.

Do I believe in having employee manual and human resources policies? Yes. Every small business should have one. Social media policy should be part of it. What my employees do after hours, I really don’t care. But I do want them to take in careful consideration what they post/tweet and how it reflects back to the business. Everyone has that responsibility. We all know that one cannot erase or delete a post or tweet after its been done.

As a service-based business, if I am not in front of my client but one of my employees is. What if my client happens to see my employee’s postings about their wild night party where that said employee is absolutely falling over drunk wearing torn clothing, or has been arrested for DUI? It is a reflection back to my business. It is a reflection back to my employee as well. The client is going to wonder about the employee – is this person reliable? Can I count on this employee to keep confidence?

Social media unfortunately is not going away. But it does leave behind a tremendous impact one way or another. Like words, social media has power as well, to influence.

With that said, does your small business have a social media policy? If you don’t have one in place, come to Kennesaw WordPress Meetup to learn more. The date is October 9th. Join us starting at 11:30 am to listen to our guest speaker, Dawn Stastny as she explains HR and social media.