Another day, another social media scandal. But it’s not just celebrities tripping themselves up on Twitter or falling foul of Facebook. It’s not uncommon now for disgruntled employees to vent their frustrations about their company with their Facebook friends. Even the Equality and Human Rights Commission found itself in an unwelcome spotlight recently when one of its board members made supposedly ‘derogatory’ comments about fellow supermarket shoppers on Twitter.

It’s hardly surprising then, that organisations are a tad nervous about social media and more likely to try and restrict their staff’s use of networking sites rather than encourage them to actively embrace the on-line world.

What many have failed to recognise, however, is that social media is here to stay – and organisations are better off engaging with it pro-actively rather than trying to get their staff to take a pledge of silence. Employees don’t need to be sitting at their work station in order to connect with their on-line communities – they are available at the touch of a button, on their mobile phones. Always on, ever present and presenting a huge opportunity as well as a threat to hard-won corporate reputations.

Given the volatile nature of the beast, it’s surprising that so few organisations actually have any kind of social media policy. Those that do, often approach them from a standpoint of ‘control’ rather than engagement.

While it’s important of course for employers to make sure everyone is aware of what’s legal, a more appropriate approach might be for policies to stress the importance of protecting the business brand. It’s about highlighting the need to be respectful of others and encouraging people to think carefully about what information they put out in the public domain.

Of course, if you involve employees in putting your HR policies together in the first place, they are much more likely to adhere to the principles.

So what does your social media policy look like? We want this blog to be a two-way street and would be interested to hear how you are tackling this thorny issue.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.