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Does Social Media Make Your Company Share Too Much?

For companies, social media is a chance to build a brand, but at what cost to the people paid to post?

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For companies, social media is a chance to build a brand, but at what cost to the people paid to post?

Opinions

Does Social Media Make Your Company Share Too Much?

For companies, social media is a chance to build a brand, but at what cost to the people paid to post?

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What’s true of individuals is also true of business entities: being open about what we do and how we do it can bring greater notoriety or ridicule. In the battle for market dominance, the weight of public opinion greatly affects many outcomes.

Given the long reach of social media in what others are saying about your company, what people know about your business can literally make or break the enterprise.

I’m a big proponent of company-wide transparency—so much so, that my office had glass walls, back when our company maintained a physical headquarters.

That open setting became a metaphor for our policies of inclusion—from communication channels to information disclosure that brought our team members closer together. This need grew when we shifted to a fully remote workspace.

Increasing transparency in an organisation is a bold move, one meant to increase teamwork and confidence in leadership. The idea that we can go too far in revealing information, though, is disconcerting.

Privacy laws, personal boundaries, and the threat from runaway rumours all come into play. But you can’t reap the rewards of a more tightly functioning unit and an adoring public if you don’t risk some exposure.

To find out how much transparency is desirable in your situation, I suggest a positive/negative approach. First, take the time to foresee the pitfalls of sharing information via social media. Put some rudimentary safeguards in place. Then, step away from your Facebook account and focus on the proactive side of transparency: building trust.

How Far Should You Go?

Numbers and personal details are popular “shares” in the interest of transparency these days. The numbers can be anything from employee salaries to profit and loss statements—figures that used to be private but that are now seen as levelling the playing field or holding staff accountable for their influence on the company’s bottom line.

Personal information such as interests, character traits, and health status might be used to better understand or interact with coworkers. This information also used to be intentionally shared with family and friends.

Now, a company may encourage staff members to post the details of their lives on internal media platforms, available only to employees, or on the company’s social media pages.

This trail may lead from the company-sanctioned site to employees’ personal Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feeds. Once that happens, the information is out there, and it can be disseminated or corrupted by anyone.

So, your organisation will rightly want to set some rules for what to share and when. The federal government’s social media policy, for example, strictly distinguishes between what federal workers can say in the name of the administration versus their private views.

The other end of this extreme would be a company such as Adidas, which exhorts its employees to “tell the world about your work.”

Even businesses with transparent policies, like Adidas, usually add some ethical guidelines, to avoid endorsing personal views. Guidance on sharing company-related matters online may include:

·         stating a blog poster’s job title and company contact for official news

·         disclaiming company responsibility for personal opinions

·         adhering to existing confidentiality agreements

·         listing which types of company information cannot be passed along

·         defining unacceptable language

When it comes to restricting employees’ online expression, be selective and be specific. Choose things that might cause the most glaring problems, like who can comment on official legal matters or which numbers must be kept within the company’s network.

Remember that trusting your employees to some degree may do more than telling them to not do something. Control what you can control, and then get out of the way.

A Blanket of Trust

The remedy for too much exposure is a garment with enough coverage that is still breathable.

This must come from the fabric of your organisation—the culture of trust that you have built between company leaders and employees, staff members and their colleagues, and your business and clientele. Once you have your social media ethics in place, shift your focus to actions that will foster and maintain trust.

One thing that does this for management and staff is encouraging them to share their personal passions. Celebrating favourite off-hours activities or achievements in the workplace is a great way to help your team bond.

You could throw company support behind sports leagues or community service efforts and publicise the good news on your website.

Highlighting shared interests builds team engagement and increases brand identity. All the while, you are building trust.

When your people are confident in sharing elements of their personal and professional lives, you won’t worry about feeling naked. You’ve opened a window into the soul of your business and shown the world that you are proud of it.

By accepting the risks of information sharing, you can use exposure to your company’s advantage.

Chris Dyer is the author of The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits, out now published by Kogan Page.

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Does Social Media Make Your Company Share Too Much?

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