My name is Lee Ann Collins, managing partner of Lane Gorman Trubitt, LLC (LGT), a public accounting firm in Dallas, and this job is keeping me up at night.
My most recent nightmare took me down a tricky path. I dreamt that our well-meaning and very eager new intern Brent was posting pictures of himself with unsuspecting clients. In my dream he was collecting clients like Pokémon with a need to catch them all on his camera. Horrified, I woke up instantly reaching for my phone to assure myself everything was fine, and fortunately there were no photos of our top 200 clients with achievement badges next to them. Like all other responsible firms, we take client privacy very seriously, and even well-intentioned mentions on social media can be perilous.
Like most companies we are active and involved on the major social media platforms and use it to inform and educate our clients and prospects. Every business should have a social media policy and a plan in case something goes very wrong.
Why does employee behavior online matter?
Our employees are the face of our company just as much as our official sites. Businesses like ours thrive based on the strength of the relationships we build. We want clients to know that not only is the firm knowledgeable about the services we are providing but our individual employees are too. By giving our employees guidelines and extensive training on how to use social media they are able to put their best foot forward and give our client’s a clearer picture of what they can expect from us.
What can you restrict?
I would definitely suggest meeting with an employment lawyer or a social media policy expert to make sure you are not stomping on any freedom of speech rights when restricting posts on the main page of your company. According to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) here are a few items you can’t restrict:
- Employees cannot be forbidden from talking to a third party through any social media platform when discussing or seeking help in regards to working conditions.
- You cannot restrict the sharing of terms of employment or information sharing with other employees or a third party.
Here are some things you can restrict:
- Trade secrets or private information
- Client information
- Harassment, derogatory remarks, or discriminatory actions
How do you implement the policy?
A social media policy is a fine line to walk. Create too-strict rules and employees won’t share any of your content. Be too lax and you will end up with a racist frog problem like Wendy’s. Whatever you decide to include in your policy it must be applied to everyone in the company, from Brent the intern to Brad the partner, everyone needs to know what are your company’s expectations and rules. Additionally, choose one person who will monitor and field questions about social media and your policy.
Encourage your employees not to use company time for personal social postings, but allocate time for them to share company content and engage with clients and prospects on social sites. If they are uncertain on how to post or share make sure there is training on what makes a great LinkedIn profile and news feed, how to verify facts on Facebook, and how not to engage with Twitter trolls. Avoid employees bad mouthing your company by making sure they are happy. (Want to know how? Check out my article on employee retention here.)
Brent is just starting out with us and we are giving him all the social tools we can so that he knows when to share a post from his managing partner about the importance of professional behavior online and when to post client-free selfies.