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“There seems to be a constant stream of news reports involving employees of big brands being fired for their online activities.”

Did you hear about the guardsman who ranted insults at the princess he was supposed to be protecting, or the politician who described old people as ‘coffin dodgers’? What about the hospital workers who posted pictures of their ‘planking’ at work, or travel agent who threatened to smack the brown nosed cow in the face?

These national news headlines sound like they deserve a funny punchline but unfortunately for the individuals involved there was only one outcome – ‘sacked for inappropriate online behaviour’.

In addition to the financial loss, the organisations they represented all suffered significant damage to reputation and a notable drop in brand loyalty – lost investment in staff training ££, lost votes, lost professional credibility and trust from patients, and lost customer revenues ££.

There seems to be a constant stream of news reports involving employees of big brands being fired for their online activities. Stories which point towards a growing problem – the lack of awareness and understanding by employees about what is deemed acceptable by their employers and most loyal customers when it comes to making comments and posting pictures online.

So which approach should your company follow to ensure up to date, relevant, and future proof social media policies? Is your company draconian with its policies or flexible and engaging?

For many years the widely adopted approach to social media policy has been to baton down the hatches. Policy writers have used terms such as ‘employees must not access social media sites during working hours’ or ‘employees must not mention the employer’s name online’. Whichever terminology is applied, the underlying theme has been the same – to stop all communication that cannot be controlled.

But what if you were told that your employees’ outreach across the web could be one of your most powerful opportunities? What if you were told that amplifying your employees’ voice across the web would result in far greater traffic to your site, a broader outreach for your marketing messages, improved credibility throughout your peer group and customer base, increased leads and ultimately increased sales and enhanced business performance?

Weber Shandwick is one of the world’s leading PR firms carried out research across 2,300 employees of Fortune 500 companies and found that nearly six in ten (54%) employees would and have defended their company from negative comments to family, friends or in a more public venue such as blogging, social media, and forums.

To take advantage of the opportunity most recently referred to as ‘employee amplification’ the business needs to create a defined and structured framework within which an employee can work. Businesses need to modernise their policies in line with today’s internet users (which includes employees!) and do away with the ‘lock-down’ approach – instead introducing engaging and positive incentives that will encourage and promote positive and appropriate use of the web.

Once a business has understood its workforce, modernised its policies in an informed way and implemented a mind-set shift to encourage positive discussion online, the results can be staggering. One US Bank was able to increase its online outreach by over 2000% simply by encouraging its employees to talk about the business online.

Gathering such research about your employees in-house can be time consuming as well as prone to error. More importantly, in-house gathering of such intelligence leaps into the grey area of non-compliant monitoring of employees and is likely to breach multiple areas of legislation.

Thought leaders in the development of online social profiling (such as the Milton Keynes based company, SP Index) have for some time been developing compliant mechanisms for gathering detailed web analytics using engaging and exciting co-operation processes with employees.

SP Analytics offers insight to identify key business opportunities you might be missing out on. These results can then be used to design robust policies that are up to date, relevant to your business, modern, powerful, and futureproof.

Wouldn’t you like to attract the most positive engagement from your employees as well as raise awareness of your online expectations? What about increasing your online outreach by 2000%?

Symposium training runs a workshop on Social media and Recruitment.