With social media becoming an ever-important corporate tool, should employees be conscious of their personal profiles and portraying a positive image on behalf of the company – or is this considered beyond the call of duty?
YES, says Laura Pardoe, Partner, Grow Digital Services
“An employee’s social media page could potentially lead to a better job opportunity elsewhere, making it in their interest to keep a clean, professional profile at all times”
Should social media should act as an extension of your job title? Absolutely – especially if you work in a predominantly client-facing role. People trust their peers, and a negative personal post from a social media page could affect this and reflect badly on a company/employers image. In business, it is imperative that customers are made to feel completely looked after and at ease, so that they can trust a company completely.
I am a firm believer in acting responsibly on social media, posting only relevant content to the corresponding platforms. For example, content relating to socialising is not relevant to LinkedIn given that it is a business platform, so here particularly employees should act responsibly and focus more on content for the business industry.
Living in a Muslim country especially, social media can have a negative effect on a company’s reputation – if an employee is seen drinking alcohol, for example, or participating in political debates. Despite the individual having their own views, an observer of such behavior on a social media platform may in fact associate the employee with the company they work for. In this way, employees essentially act as brand ambassadors on social media, and should update their profiles accordingly – similar to wearing appropriate attire to work; social media pages should be respectable. Imagine a client of a company stumbling across an unsuitable comment on an employees social media page? That could result in a potential loss of business, and people will always relate negative experiences to others ten times over.
An employee has the option to turn their profile settings to private to ensure that their personal life does not conflict with their professional one, and this should be an important and common practice, as many people research one another online before meeting in person.
Another important factor to consider is that talent scouts often browse social media for new candidates for employment. This means that an employee’s social media page could potentially lead to a better job opportunity elsewhere, making it in their interest to keep a clean, professional profile at all times.
Smart and intelligent posts on social media will only act in an employees favour. For example, speaking about something meaningful or inspirational can have a positive effect on others by increasing the trust or respect. Clients will feel more at ease and in the right hands when they can see that a company’s employees are honest and respectable, and not representing themselves entirely differently online to how they act professionally. It is essential that a company has a policy to ensure that unhappy employees do not flaunt their complaints on social media, and that there should be an open HR initiative to maintain honest communication at all times.
NO, says Melwyn Abraham, PR and Social Media Manager at Matrix PR
“Employees should be able to build their own individual identity without having to follow the company brand culture”
Today, most businesses – as an integral part of their marketing and PR strategy – have invested in making their brand appear social through various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They not only share the ‘what’s new and trending’ but also present a human side of the business through their employees and behind the scenes images and posts.
The reason social media has managed such deep penetration is because it affords the users space and a profile to voice and share their individual opinions, thoughts, emotions and life with friends, family and the public, if desired.
Do people represent their companies through their social media profiles? Maybe. But should social media be an extension of a person’s job title? Surely not. And here is why…
It’s Personal. Someone’s personal profile is exactly what the name suggests – a personal profile. What makes it personal and genuine is that one is not paid to post anything on it and others trust the opinions and thoughts shared to be the private views of the individual. The moment you take away the genuinity of a person’s profile and turn him into a company spokesperson, his profile loses its credibility.
A person is not defined by his job title or the profession he is in. So if I want to post updates about my trip to the dentist and how I think my dentist needs a dentist himself, I should be able to do so without hesitation.
I agree that companies do run the risk that a section of its target audience may judge them by the social media profiles of their employees. But companies can also protect their brand image by issuing guidelines to the employees with regards to content that they can post on their social profiles regarding said company, or prevent employees from posting anything about the company at all. Companies must not ask employees to use their personal profiles as a marketing tool. Such measures can even break office hierarchy and relationships, moving focus away from real roles and responsibilities. The bottom line benefits maybe big but they cannot come at a cost of losing credibility.
Social media must not be allowed to become the bell to Pavlov’s dog. True and honest feedback of people’s experiences with the brands they interact with will only help brands become better and understand their audience better. If every personal profile were to become a marketing platform the social media system itself would collapse.
Employees should be able to build their own individual identity without having to follow the company brand culture. Employers can gain increased leverage over employees and their social media accounts, which can even extend to their friends and families. Educating employees to exercise common sense by sharing tips and guidelines about using social media is more important.
We are after all, what we share.