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CMOs are charged with social media marketing and monitoring what prospects and clients are saying online, but lack the technological capacity, power and often, the desire to monitor what employees are saying online. This thinking is flawed, at best and downright dangerous, at worst. Here’s why and what needs to change.

With very few exceptions, at most companies you can be pretty certain a large number of your employees are participating online in some way. Of course they’re entitled to do what they want (on their own time), but how many of them are posting potentially damaging comments using accounts where they identify themselves as part of your organization?

If you’ve never read Facebook comments, pop on there right now and check out the comments on any hot topic on any news site. And if you have read them you already know -- most comments are HORRIFYING.

Ever click over to someone’s profile after reading a particularly foul comment? I do so regularly purely to see if they’re listing where they work. And I can tell you that nine times out of 10, they do.

Why Care?

Imagine that person (that commented something unpleasant) works at your company and the person clicking over is particularly incensed by your employee’s comment. They fire off a note to your employee and a back and forth ensues -- either privately via messages or publicly on someone’s Facebook page.

Depending on the topic (and particularly if it’s around politics or religion), the outrage could build to a ridiculous level pretty quickly, with more people viewing your employee’s profile -- and your company name.

You’re thinking, “Big deal, they may make a subliminal association -- and?” AND they may complain, post public screenshots or attack your company website and social sites as retribution.

That’s bad, but this is worse: What are your fellow C-suite executives doing online? You might not care so much about what the “regular folk” are doing (nor believe that what they’re doing could negatively affect your company), but your CEO is your firm and thoughtless online interactions will have repercussions.

Many of them do not fully consider who can potentially see what they post. And that audience is vast in this age where everyone screenshots posts and Facebook “friends” misguidedly number in the thousands for many professionals.

So What Can You Do?

Here’s a “Social Sabotage” checklist that you should consider running through with ALL employees during your next training (and should consider adding to your orientation package as well):

If you choose to list XYZ Company on your personal Facebook, Twitter and any other online profiles, that’s fine -- but understand that we do NOT want our company name to be in any way associated with employees' political, religious or any other personally held and potentially polarizing beliefs. So if you list XYZ Company as your employer on these sites, you must agree to the following:

  • Avoid personal attacks, threatening or bullying behavior. [Provide examples of each.]

  • Do not share confidential, proprietary or otherwise private company information, including (but not limited to) client names or business performance.

  • Do not post or use company logos anywhere online without express approval from [Insert CMO Name].

  • Do not post reviews of XYZ Company in an attempt to increase business. This is dishonest and will result in reputational damage.

  • Do not comment or reply to press inquiries about XYZ Company -- direct them to [Insert Press Contact Name and Contact Info].

  • Understand that you are legally responsible if you post something defamatory, obscene (not swears, the legal definition) or libelous.

Additionally, although ultimately meaningless if a PR crisis hits as a result of something you post, we require the following disclaimer be attached to the end of your profiles: 'Please note, posts and views expressed on this site are my own, and are in no way endorsed by my employer.' And we also require all posts be written in first person.

Important: If, despite your best efforts, you become involved in a 'social snafu’ and find you’ve attracted unwanted attention -- and ensuing harassment -- from a troll (or many trolls), we expect that you will ignore, block and report the person trolling you and alert [Insert CMO Name] to the situation immediately.

Policy violations are grounds for dismissal.

Another word of caution: Even if employees decide to NOT list your company on their online profiles, you might want to include the training (and guidelines) above regardless, because unless your employee has a separate, secret online identity that isn’t attached in any way to his/her real name/identity, it will only take a few clicks for someone to find his/her LinkedIn profile -- and likely your business (most people active online list where they work on LinkedIn).

If someone is motivated enough to find out where your employee works, you can be pretty sure they're going to follow it up with a complaint. Hopefully that complaint won’t be something that’s tweeted, with screenshots, to the world, as it doesn’t take much for that tweeted complaint to spiral out of control. But you better be prepared in case it is.

It’s up to you to be the voice of reason here, social-listening CMO. You can be proactive and take steps to prevent a crisis now or cross your fingers and hope one doesn’t happen. What’s your choice?

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Cali4beach