4 Big Reasons Why Employers Should Require Employee Social Media Training
Social media can be a double-edged sword for businesses.
While it can be a powerful tool to build brand awareness and connect with audiences, it can also harm a company’s reputation if employees use it inappropriately – and usually have little to no oversight or training for how they use it.
There are only two alternatives: either forbid social media usage altogether (an approach that is fraught with problems), or provide training courses that teach employees how to use this tool the right way.
Social media is too useful to abandon, not just for the brand, but for your employees. That’s why a social media training course (or certification program) is the best way to embrace these capabilities without exposing the company to headaches and hassles it’d rather avoid.
Here are 4 compelling reasons why companies are embracing social media training today:
1. Protecting and Improving the Company’s Reputation
Next to your happy customers, your employees can be your brand’s best advocates. They serve as a force multiplier to your brand marketing efforts – if they can use their platforms in a positive and constructive way.
That doesn’t always happen. Employees can unintentionally (or intentionally) damage your reputation by posting content that others may find offensive, detrimental, or inappropriate, especially if it casts a bad light on the workplace. One daycare worker took to Facebook to express her disdain for working in daycare, saying, “I just really hate being around a lot of kids.” She was dismissed, even though she later clarified that she was “just venting.”
On the other hand, companies like Adobe, Dell, and Starbucks provide a compelling blueprint with their employee advocacy programs that enrolled employee volunteers, trained and certified them, and unleashed them into the world as brand ambassadors. These companies enjoy far greater reach and influence than they could with just their corporate-branded platforms.
The key is to formalize training and offer the tools employees need to become motivated representatives of your organization.
2. Ensuring Compliance with Company Policies
Many companies have employee social media policies in place that outline what employees can and cannot do on social media – but that doesn’t mean employees know about or understand them.
By providing training on these policies, businesses can ensure that their employees understand the rules and are compliant with them.
It’s not just about brand relations, either; inappropriate social media use can result in legal liabilities, especially if employees share confidential or sensitive information that run afoul of data privacy regulations. It’s possible that other issues, such as defamation, cyber-stalking, and other crimes carried out by the employee via social media drag the company into nasty legal entanglements.
Training can help prevent these problems and protect the company from liability.
3. Complementing a Company’s DEI, Sexual Harassment, and Discrimination Policies
As employee social media use grows, so does the chance to reinforce various policies a company has in place to ensure a fair, equal, and safe workplace – especially given how frequently colleagues interact with each other using social media.
According to one survey of employees who receive social media requests:
- 94% receive requests from colleagues they interact with daily
- 66% receive requests from colleagues they do not interact with daily
- 48% receive requests from their bosses or supervisors
It’s important to make sure that interactions are covered by your company’s policies – and with training, they can be.
Social media training for employees can emphasize what can and cannot be shared or posted online, which includes derogatory or discriminatory content. It can clarify the boundaries between employees (including direct reports and supervisors) and how they exist even online.
Training can also provide clear examples of what does and doesn’t conflict with a company’s DEI and EEOC guidelines. It’s easier to understand a guideline when you see it being used in a practical situation, instead of just reading about it.
4. Improving Workplace Engagement and Productivity
Contrary to popular belief, social media use in the workplace doesn’t have to be a major distraction (although without proper structure and guidance, it certainly can be).
In fact, employees often feel more engaged when they’re allowed to use social media while at work – and engagement creates greater employee job satisfaction, better performance, and higher retention levels.
Additionally, employees who are trained on how to use social media in an acceptable way are better able to clearly identify and reduce behavior that could be considered inappropriate, such as online sexual harassment, discrimination, polarizing or controversial topics, etc.
By providing training on acceptable social media use, businesses can help employees use social media in a way that does not interfere with their work and increases engagement in a healthy and positive way.
Creating the Foundation for an Effective Social Media Training Course
The reasons for creating some kind of formal, structured training program are clear, but how can a company get started? The topic can seem overwhelming if an organization is starting from scratch (or only has a list of vague guidelines and nothing else).
Any comprehensive policies and training efforts about social media are built on the same fundamental principles that apply no matter the company or industry. At a minimum, according to SHRM, your program needs to convey to employees that they should:
- Exercise good judgment and common sense.
- Not allow social networking to interrupt productivity.
- Be polite and responsible.
- Use disclaimers or speak in the first person to make it clear the opinions expressed are not those of their employer.
- Remember the audience and that what is being said might create a perception about the employer.
If you’re in a regulated industry, or need to take into consideration additional constraints or external policies, then you can add to these as appropriate.
Still, the minimums aren’t good enough. Plus, there’s a lot more to an effective training course than just laying out guidelines, and creating your own can be daunting and resource-intensive.
To help, we’ve created social media training courses that can plug into any company’s processes, serve any employee no matter their role or experience level, and offer across-the-board guidance on everything from proper posting procedures to how to avoid social engineering attacks. You can learn more about our courses here.
At the end of the day, however, providing training courses or certification programs for acceptable social media use has become less of an option and more of a necessity.
Social media training courses for employees can help businesses mitigate reputational risks, avoid legal liabilities, and maintain a productive and professional work environment. Social media is a powerful tool, and training is how you can leverage it with confidence.