When Elon Musk took to social media on August 7, 2018, to announce he was considering taking Tesla private, he did more than just offhandedly share company information to the public. Musk violated SEC regulations that resulted in a $20 million fine and his removal as Chairman of Tesla. As part of the settlement, Tesla has been directed by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) to put “controls and procedures to oversee Musk’s communications.”
Although it’s a dramatic example, Musk is a dramatic guy. But there’s a headline almost every day about someone getting fired over making what they thought was a seemingly innocent comment on their social media page. At least they didn’t see the harm in it at the moment.
Sharing Means Setting & Respecting Boundaries
Whether it’s oversharing personal details and company information or broadcasting controversial political views; there’s a line that can’t be crossed. That doesn’t mean muzzling people or dampening your employees’ enthusiasm over anything exciting they want to share about your organization. It just means setting and respecting boundaries, especially if you work in industries that are subject to regulatory compliance and policies such as FINRa (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
In Regulated Industries, Casual Sharing Isn’t an Option
In the medical industry, professionals are subject to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). There’s no room for error with patients or with social media activities in the medical profession. Even casual sharing that would be okay in any other field could be a violation of patient privacy, according to HIPAA regulations designed to protect the medical data and privacy of patients.
In financial services, even with publicly traded companies, there are specific rules that have to be followed in disseminating information. For example, sharing information could have the effect of misleading investors and lead to trouble with regulators. (See exhibit “A” in the first paragraph, Elon Musk.)
The Digitally Savvy Solution Isn’t to Ignore Social Media
A wide range of industries are affected by the interplay of regulations and social media, but they all share the same solution: You need a plan to deal with social media and sharing. Crossing your fingers and hoping someone doesn’t say the wrong thing won’t cut it. There’s always the chance someone will go rogue. (Again looking at you, Elon Musk.)
Instead of worrying about people saying the wrong thing on social media, the real solution is to give people the right guidelines. Teaching people what they can and cannot say on social media affords companies more protection than being afraid of the subject and trying to avoid it. This is also true of employee advocacy programs, which leverage employees’ social networks to spread corporate messages.
Whether you’re setting up social media guidelines or starting a full-fledged social media advocacy program, you’re going to want to create a plan for educating your employees. So, let’s get you a plan.
Here’s How to Get Employees Sharing the Right Way:
Create Social Media Guidelines
Create a social media manual people can refer to and look up questions. Give them a black-and-white guide to social media that removes all the pesky grey areas. Clearly, state what can and cannot be done on social networking sites, and update it yearly.
Give Social Media Training
Guidelines are a good first step, but generally, only the eager beavers in an organization thoroughly review these policies. That’s where in-person or webinar training comes in. For most people, it’s a more engaging way to learn. Social media training also gives employees the opportunity to be interactive and ask questions, which leads to them becoming more comfortable with social sharing initiatives. It’s the ideal way to nip social media issues in the bud before they can grow into bigger issues.
People like things short and sweet. A one-pager makes a great reference guide people are more likely to keep on hand (and less likely to throw in the garbage) than a comprehensive guide that rivals the Yellow Pages. You don’t even have to write your own, you can grab a copy of the PostBeyond Social Media Cheat Sheet to help guide employees.
Lead from the Top
Leaders lead. When employees see their CEO and C-Suite execs involved in social media, they have an example to follow. They’re also more likely to feel that social media activity is part of the organizational culture and follow suit.
Get the Right Employee Advocacy Software
When you create a central repository with pre-approved content, you radically decrease your odds of sharing in the wrong way. A central, safe place for employees to access and share content alleviates much of the worry of oversharing for everyone in the organization. It also makes it simple. When busy employees have an easy way to share, they’re more likely to achieve long-term results.
Share & Reward Social Success Stories
Nobody likes being forced to do things. When you want to create an atmosphere of authentic sharing that promotes your organization on social media sites, you’ll do best to encourage with positive reinforcements — not by punishment. Focus on rewarding positive behaviors and showing them the benefits of social media, so they become invested in the initiative. You’ll encourage more employees to drive the success of your social media sharing program, and they won’t resent being forced into it.
Looking for more ways to encourage social sharing? Download PostBeyond’s How to Drive Adoption eBook