Email marketing is now firmly ensconced into social media networks to the point where it is difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. While traditional email communication takes on the electronic formality of a letter, social media is meant to be a conversation and thus naturally migrates into a more easygoing communication paradigm. This relaxed archetype may suit chats between friends, but can create an array of problems for brands trying to represent professionalism at all times. Social media interaction calls for the setting and enforcing of specific policies to ensure your brand’s reputation is not sullied.

Disclaimers Will Not Compensate for Drunken Party Photos

A number of companies mandate that disclaimers be placed on the social media accounts of employees to delineate the division between personal and business content. Business software provider SAP, for example, provides this boilerplate:

This [Blog, Space …] is the personal [Blog, Space …] of [Name] and only contains my personal views, thoughts and opinions. It is not endorsed by SAP nor does it constitute any official communication of SAP.

Disclaimers such as these can be effective to a point, but do not address the fact that most of your employees have likely placed photos and information on their Facebook pages that are not consistent with portraying the professional image your brand would like to project. A quick review of Facebook pages at random will reveal a remarkable number of verbal and visual evocations of “party behavior” that include depictions of various stages of intoxication. Even conventional wall posts can be deemed to be off-putting or distasteful when they deal with controversial topics or depict unorthodox points of view.

A Completely Separate “Business” Facebook Profile Might Be Required

Some estimates place the number of fake Facebook profiles at 40%, so it is definitely not unusual for individuals to have multiple accounts. In order to protect your brand’s reputation, it may be necessary to specify that employees who are representing your company in the various social media spaces set up a separate profile and only contact customers through that account. This specific profile should be focused on company business and bereft of embarrassing or questionable content.

Peeking in on an Employee’s Profile Could Violate Federal Wiretapping Laws

The setup of a particular “business profile” should also obviate possible judicial entanglements connected with your supervision of those accounts. Legal precedent has been established that specifies that unauthorized surveillance of an employee’s social media account violates federal wiretapping laws.

The discussions your employees have with customers about the company should also be closely controlled. Facebook is acknowledged as a social network where casual and relaxed conversations take place, but this informality should not be allowed to verge into “telling tales out of school.” Comments about specific individuals within the company should be kept to a minimum and never skirt into personal aspects which are not directly related to the process of doing business. Your brand’s policies and activities should not be questioned or debated in the public sphere, and all employees engaging in company communications should consistently support corporate strategies and methods without fail.

Social Media Comments Can Be Detrimental… Even if They’re Not About Your Company

Even social media interaction that is not directly related to company business can turn out to be fundamentally detrimental. Kodak’s Social Media Policy quotes such a case:

A worker in one company made disparaging ‘tweets’ about a client’s headquarters city. Needless to say, some of the client’s employees followed the individual on Twitter and were offended. Right or wrong, they were upset not just with the individual, but with his company as well.

It is neither feasible nor possible to submit every Tweet and Wall post to prior executive vetting. Therefore the oft-quoted Reaganesque proverb of “trust but verify” must apply to your company’s social media efforts. You must trust your employees to represent your brand in a professional and sober manner, but it is still important to verify that your social media policy parameters are being satisfied in every instance.