Facebook and Your Employees
Let’s take the most widely used social media platform, Facebook, and examine this issue. First and foremost, most of us list our occupation and employer on our account profile. Like it or not, this immediately links us with whatever business we represent. Immediately, with that one action, I have become a “representative” of that company, and my actions reflect on the company. This should be something that we all think about and are concerned about. Despite this, few companies have any social media policies or have even thought about developing one!
Although we could open up an entire debate on free speech in social media, that is not our focus today. I will leave that discussion to the academics and ethicists, of which I am neither! Rather, our goal today is to examine how employees’ use of social media can and does affect your dealership.
The Dealership Example
Having been in the car business for a few years, I still have many friends in the industry. Something that I notice more and more on my social media feeds is salespersons sharing the news about specials at the dealership on their pages. I love this approach! To me, this says that salesperson is stepping up their game to get the job done! Typically, the dealership is mentioned in these posts, otherwise how are people going to know where to go? I am a firm supporter of salespersons sharing posts, provided that it is done correctly. After all, who doesn’t love free advertising? First, always be sure the offers and appropriate disclaimers are correct first and second, please have someone proofread it BEFORE you post it! I can’t tell you how many comments I see on these posts correcting spelling and grammar. It is a reflection on you and the dealership, so make sure it's right. Most importantly, those errors distract from the potency of your message.
Here is where we begin to get into a gray area. Does what your employees post personally (not mentioning your business) have an impact on your social media reputation? The answer is a resounding yes. Like it or not, we live in a time where it seems that everything makes its way to social media. I am so glad I went to college before social media took hold of our lives! The pictures we post or memes we share reflect not only on ourselves, but on our business.
Social media is an instant gratification sport. Most people put very little thought into what they post and share. This lack of forethought can be detrimental professionally. Once something is posted on social media, liked, shared, or commented on, it is virtually impossible to take it back. Some things are obvious not to post – bashing the company you work for, or that difficult customer that you had to deal with. Some things are not so clear – expressing political opinions or sharing less than politically correct jokes. This is that gray area I was talking about. You have to decide what is right for you and the culture of your dealership. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules where this is concerned. I would encourage you to explore the necessity of developing a social media policy that eliminates as much of that gray area as you can!
Developing a social media policy
I would begin with the understanding that the policy it is in place to protect the employee as well as the dealership. Most folks idea of a social media policy involve telling employees to not post “anything stupid” which is about as clear as mud! Other companies’ policies clearly delineate exactly what employees can and cannot post down to the nitty gritty! I don’t have a precise answer for you on this one. You have to decide what is right for your dealership culture. Here are a few of my recommendations for consideration:
- No racist, sexist or otherwise offensive material
- Nothing illegal or supporting criminal activity
- Nothing that discredits the dealership or manufacturer
- Nothing disparaging other dealers/manufacturers
- No violent/explicit material
- No use of profanity
- Nothing that would likely offend a potential customer (this one is hard, everyone is offended by something)
To me, the most important part of all this is the follow through. You have to monitor what is out there in the social media universe about your dealership. On a regular basis, do a search on your dealership and see what’s out there on social media. Rectify the issues if there are any and most importantly, if there are negative posts out there, respond in a professional manner. We have had situations where there have been negative posts or reviews and being proactive about responding have turned those into positives. Many times the negativity is expressed by those who feel their voice has not been heard. Working to assure that the issue has been heard and is being handled (even if the end result is not what the person was hoping for) goes a long way! At the end of the day, it is your reputation on the line!