Last year I attended a professional meeting about "educating learners through social media." Differences, I noted, from the three meeting presenters were the types of learners being educated through social media (i.e., junior high students, college students, and adult employees), the social media used as the teaching medium (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), the type of content posted, and how learning was evaluated. The similarity was that regardless of demographics and life experience, every type of learner needed to be taught the basics of social media etiquette.
The Trend Emerges
Recently, I was assigned to manage an e-learning project for a client. The objective of the course was to teach employees how social media could positively or negatively affect their company. Thinking about this project, the meeting I attended, and the articles I've recently read about the use of social media in the workplace, I recognized an emerging trend.
No matter how Web 2.0 tools are used to share news or provide knowledge, all social media users need to learn and follow social media policies. Like me, you've probably read stories about companies that have had bad social media experiences - an employee posting that damaged a company's reputation or resulted in a PR problem. Usually, it's this type of experience that often causes a firm to implement social media training and guidelines after the fact - very reactionary. Because social media isn't going away, it's never too late to be proactive and consider the policies your company does/does not have in place.
Social Media Policies
Social media tools can provide a way for companies to improve employee performance by providing just-in-time information or posting good news and incentives. The policies you create will vary according to your organization's identity, image, and needs. After researching and reviewing social media policies online, I found that most companies ask employees to:
- Avoid using offensive or insulting language or tone
- Share facts, procedures, or processes rather than opinions or personal stories, unless they relate to the service or product the company offers
- Think before posting information about oneself or others
- Seek to add value
Your organization may not be using social media to educate employees, but many, perhaps all of your employees, are using social media to communicate with family, friends, and other groups. It has just become a normal part of most people's lives, which is why it's still important to teach employees about social media etiquette and to develop and communicate policies in regards to its use. It's easier to be proactive and have social media policies in place, than to rebuild a company's reputation after something has been blogged about, tweeted, Liked, or posted.
I'd love to hear how your organization is handling social media.