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March 25, 2010

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...

With the growing importance of social media activity to a brand’s online reputation, it is becoming more and more imperative, especially for larger businesses, to watch what your employees are doing on Twitter, Facebook, and other channels of public communication. Of course, this is not to suggest that you should spy on your employees, or watch their private correspondence – all that needs be watched are those communications that are publicly available, as these are the messages that can be syndicated in real-time search and find their way out into the world in a way that can damage your brand.

Social media has become such an integral part of many people’s daily lives that they hardly even think about what they’re posting. Status updates complaining about something a boss did, tweets about a new product launch that hasn’t yet been announced, or venting about a product that isn’t working and is running behind schedule can all cause serious damage to your brand, with no malicious intent on the part of your employees. 

Having a Social Networking Agreement for your employees to sign is a good first step to managing your messaging. In it, spell out exactly what is and is not acceptable behavior in terms of discussing their work and your brand. If there are any gray areas, delineate these carefully, and set aside someone in your organization who employees can contact to check with to make sure something is appropriate. This simple step can help employees be more conscious of how they discuss their work online, and can save you a lot of grief down the line.

To protect yourself more carefully, it’s a good idea to monitor major streams of communication, such as Facebook updates and Twitter, for your brand or phrases related to your brand. This is a good idea generally, to see the buzz that’s out there, but it will also catch comments employees might make, which you can more directly deal with. Many businesses set up special RSS feeds to track their employees’ public updates, so that they can scan them throughout the day and make sure nothing critical is getting out, or hire specialized reputation monitoring professionals to insure that they know who and what is being said about their brand.

Integrated software, such as Social Sentry, will automate the process of following employees and tracking their updates for anything relating to your brand. This helps filter through the white noise, and makes it less of a direct invasion of your employee privacy, only notifying you when a status update has raised a flag according to pre-determined conditions. In addition to statements directly about your brand, many businesses also find it useful to monitor their public employees, to ensure that their behavior in social networks reflect well on their business. The last thing a good brand needs is for a VP of marketing to release a series of drunken ramblings on Twitter days before meeting with an important client. By taking a proactive approach in screening your employees’ activity, you put yourself in a position to intervene quickly and mitigate any damage that might be done by casual tweets or updates.
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