There are times in almost every business where an employee may make a thoughtless comment, an off-color joke, or controversial statement that can hurt your company. Of course, one of the best ways to deal with social media incidents is to prevent them from happening in the first place. To do this, it is important to train employees on social media best practices. Companies that spend their time training their employees tend to have fewer problems with embarrassing or destructive situations online. It also helps the employees to feel more comfortable sharing things online because they understand what the company wants them to share better.
Simply adding preventive measures does not guarantee problems on social media will not happen, though. When it does, it is important for the company to stop and think before reacting. Many mistakes on social media end up in troublesome situations because the employer shoots first and then asks questions later. Rather than jumping the gun, it is important for the business to take a measured approach and assess the situation, then diffuse it. Below are five practical ways your business can diffuse social media incidents.
- Issue a statement: even before an investigation is done, it is important for you to issue a statement. This initial statement should show compassion towards anyone hurt or affected by the post, but should only contain a small amount of information. Be careful to tone the statement in a way that doesn’t acknowledge guilt. Your ultimate goal is to be seen as compassionate, confident, and competent. Later, it may be important to issue additional statements. At that time, the statements can discuss findings from the investigation and whether your company will be taking any disciplinary actions. Be certain to communicate that the post doesn’t reflect the views or beliefs of the company, then give details on what you are going to do to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.
- Investigate the incident: it is important to never jump to conclusions when an incident occurs or to make brash decisions. Launching an investigation can be two-fold for your company. First, you want to ensure that you are not wrongfully accusing an employee, and second, to discover if an employee violated your policies. Part of the investigation process will help you determine whether the account actually belongs to the employee or not and whether the employee published the post. Never assume the employee is guilty, but rather, give them a chance to tell their side of the story before deciding.
- Keep your perspective when looking at the situation: it can be easy to overreact when something is offensive, but it is important to take a critical look at the severity of the incident. Everyone makes mistakes, so it is important to determine whether a mistake was made or if a policy was clearly violated. Often, things on social media are given more weight than things that happen as a lunchroom comment or through an email. The platform the comment was made on does not automatically mean that what was said goes against the company’s policy. A company should also consider the employee involved. There’s a big difference between a post made by a manager and a post made by the janitor. Also, keep in mind the number of followers on the social media account.
- Stay consistent: when someone violates a company policy on social media, it is imperative to stay consistent with disciplining them. Perhaps you have never terminated an employee for a social media post, but feel that it is necessary for a specific situation. Perhaps what was said was more offensive than another case, or was more widely distributed. Regardless, it is important to make it clear why you are deviating from past disciplinary actions. Treating a situation differently is fine if you can justify it.
- Debrief your employees: every employee in your organization acts as a PR representative, so it is important to discuss the situation by perhaps sending an internal memo. Use the memo as an opportunity to explain what happened in detail and the company’s stance on the issue. You should also mention who employees may contact if they have further questions.
Every day, companies big and small must deal with social media posts by their employees. It is the responsibility of the company to know how to deal with these situations while keeping the best interests of the employees and the business in mind. If your company does run into trouble with social media management, we at RedWave Technology Group, LLC can help walk you through the process to deal with the situation at hand.