Conquering Compliance And Reputation Risks Of Social Media With Education

social media and employment

As the latest group to explore the arena of social media governance, the New York Police Department recently issued a set of new, strict social media guidelines for its workforce of over 35,000 individuals. The motivation to renew the social media policies was rooted in a series of recent social embarrassments involving members of the department sharing offensive or inappropriate content on personal social media accounts.

This move is a reflection of the challenges organizations in every industry are facing. These challenges include the ability to share information socially and digitally, and the need to govern individual social media activity with corporate compliance and reputation protection.

Like many organizations, the New York Police Department is discovering that the blurring of the lines between personal and professional social media use can build an organization’s brand, but also damage an organization’s reputation.

A common mistake, for any organization, is to approach employee social media activity as a beast to be tamed. Rather, it’s an opportunity to educate. To protect a corporate reputation while leveraging the benefits of social media, organizations must develop governance policies that allow for both compliance and the free exchange of acceptable dialogue on social channels.

Key aspects of an education-focused social media program should include:

  • Implementation of social media training sessions: Keeping employees up-to-speed on the rules, privacy settings and best practices of social media networks will allow them to communicate and collaborate more effectively and responsibly. Organizations can impart this knowledge by maintaining regularly scheduled, easy-to-attend training modules.
  • Proactive identification of common social media mishaps: By proactively identifying which social media activities are likely to cause concern, organizations can build out specific policies, education initiatives and crisis plans.
  • Creation of a library of best practice and policy documents: Clarity around a set of social media policies and guidelines is key. Employees should be aware of, and have access to, resources that outline the best way build and engage with their social communities.
  • Utilization of monitoring solutions: For organizations that want to allow employees to engage in social media while at work and / or on the corporate network, social media monitoring software can support broader education efforts by flagging and alerting employees to potentially troublesome posts.

The New York Police Department has made a positive move by establishing clear guidelines for employees’ social media behavior. However, the missing element is a coordinated approach to education.

An employee’s social media activity has the potential to nurture positive results for the organization and it is detrimental to only consider the potential negative consequences.

Through strategic education, organizations can establish social media best practices that ultimately foster community building, advocacy and trust. Like the New York Police Department, all organizations will ultimately be forced to address the blurring lines of personal and professional communications.

The sooner an organization can develop policies that protect both its right to compliance and its individuals’ rights to social communication, the sooner that organization can realize the benefits of social media.

Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is the General Manager, Social Business at Actiance, where she is focused on enabling individuals and organizations to realize the benefits of social media and social business in an effective and appropriate fashion - while meeting any regulatory and legislative requirements. As well as working with customers, regulators and partners, Sarah is also an IBM Redbooks Thought Leader on Social Business.


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  1. Great piece! So very true that social media can be managed by simply establishing clearly defined guidelines/policy off the bat. You can be compliant and social at the same time. ­čÖé

  2. Interesting….Many companies tell employees not to "friend" clients….I think the better strategy would be to teach employees what is okay to post and what is NOT okay to post.