Today’s society has grown so accustom to updating consistently that employees’ social media behavior can bleed into business image and reputation. There are cases of it and several have paid the price. A social policy is crucial to businesses in today’s social heavy market, whether it’s to establish limitations in the work environment or guidelines to build a brand. Bottom line: a social policy will become an essential tool in crisis and reputation management for a business.
At two and a half pages in the overall “Policies and Procedures” manual for Brinker, the company’s most recent policy, revised in January 2012, has laid out specific guidelines that establish solid expectations of company employees. The social policy begins with tying this policy to the same standard as the rest:
“Our cultural beliefs of Own It, Trust Matters, Feedback’s Priceless, Win Together and Thinking Forward all apply to the use of social media as well.”
It’s a good foundation to have in writing. They are acknowledging that social media creates dynamic opportunities to connect and collaborate, but it also creates responsibilities for employees of the company. While the policy does not explicitly say that these guidelines apply to personal social accounts, it does state this:
“These guidelines also apply to TMs (team members) who post about Brinker, our brands or competitors on the following:
-Multi-media and social networking websites such as (but not limited to) Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo! Groups and YouTube
-Blogs (both personal and professional)
-Any other type of online content posting application”
I particularly liked that this part was at the beginning, front and center. Here’s what we consider social, there could definitely be platforms we missed, those are also included in this policy. These policies are established and expected out of every employee who uses these platforms, no one is excluded and no one can claim ignorance. Brinker has done it’s best to protect itself which is what any policy should effectively accomplish.
The policy goes on to establish guidelines when posting on social, a “consider this before posting” section. Followed are things Brinker asks to please keep off social. Considering it’s only a section of an overall employee manual, the policy regularly references other policy guidelines and employee behaviors within the booklet, though specific links are included.
The only major concern I had was the lack of mentions in regards to potential consequences and risks from the use of social. The only statement to do so is a short one towards the end, which explains that Brinker monitors social activity and has the right to take down all content in violation of the policy. No legal procedures are mentioned, no employee consequences referenced. In fact, expectations from social activity on personal accounts are largely implied. Given past cases with social media and the restaurant industry, I would’ve expected a solid, concrete section in regards to these concerns.
That said, Brinker has a solid social policy. No restrictions are ever indicated and any content in violation is simply asked politely to not be posted. In fact, the entire policy is relaxed, simply worded, and easy to follow. This works well in creating a trusting, welcoming environment that Brinker expects to be communicated in the actual restaurants. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn good starting point.
When developing a social policy, specificity is key. With reputation and equity of your business at potential risk, there really shouldn’t be any room for interpretation. Establish clearly what is to be expected and how guidelines are to be followed. Don’t assume, don’t imply.
If social reputation is a major component to your business, make sure you take the proper precautions. It’ll help big time, trust me.