A social media blunder can undo years’ worth of good public relations, but you can’t expect to prevent all mistakes.
Who controls the PR tap at your credit union: a department, an individual, a team, or the whole institution? If you look outside of working hours, the obvious answer is that all your employees and members generate good and bad PR. Social media is just the microphone for sentiments and discussions already in circulation.
Social media and the use of personal devices present a big risk, but risk is a part of any business. Employees don’t have to be online to make a blunder that goes viral. They just need to be in earshot of an aggressive reporter, a vengeful colleague, or bystander with a camera phone. From employees, to management, to executives, almost any element of an organization is subject to faults and costly errors.
Rather than throwing up a digital version of the Berlin Wall, focus on educating employees and leaders on the consequences of misuse and work to attract talented, trustworthy individuals who make that technology a strength, not a weakness.
Some institutions try to run all company-to-public communication through an official, brand-centric autoclave to reduce risk. But while some control is important, you risk isolating your brand if you take it too far.
For example, organizers of the 2012 Olympics have set up an online hub to facilitate social media coverage, yet event volunteers were told to abstain from discussing the event through social channels, according to Forbes. Fans and athletes would be prohibited from sharing pictures or video of events, behind-the-scenes activities, or promoting unaffiliated product lines through social media.
In short, the 2012 Olympics committee has taken the “social” out of their social media, and turned it into little more than advertising.
In contrast to the Olympics’ aggressive social media policy, many businesses are encouraging employees to interact with customers inside and outside of official channels.
An estimated 54% of companies block social media at work, and only 10% allowed unfettered access, according to a 2009 study Robert Half Technology, a IT staffing firm. Another survey by UK jobs site reed.co.uk put the stat at 28% blocked completely, 40% limited use, and 32% open access, and the U.S. is likely on a similar path.
Limiting access can even affect hiring as two out of three college students will ask about social media policies during an interview, according to CISCO Systems, which makes networking devices. And 56% of those young adults will either forgo a job at a company that blocks it, or find a way to get around the policy, like by using their mobile device in the office.