Should brands be dictating their employees’ social media use?

With the new BBC Director General, Tim Davie, taking up his post this week, at the top of his extensive to-do list is the task of restoring trust in the corporation and re-establishing the notion of impartial reporting.

There have been reports that to achieve this he’s planning a crackdown on staff (presumably including prominent presenters and personalities employed by the corporation) expressing personal opinions on social media. The BBC’s long-held impartiality has come under increasing challenge from all sides in the current partisan media landscape.

At a first glance, this makes perfect sense but given that some familiar faces – especially those who might not be employed directly – have a reputation for being somewhat outspoken on social media on political and social issues, there’s potentially a big challenge to overcome. Perhaps why such a strong line is being taken in terms of telling staff if they don’t like it they should go and work elsewhere.

For a huge organisation like the BBC, bringing in line all their staff under a common framework for social media is a massive challenge and one they have attempted several times in the past with varying degrees of success, but for other brands and organisations who want to ensure their employees’ use of social media is done responsibly, here are our top three tips:

  1. Be clear in what you are setting out to achieve as a business and align your corporate social media activity with this – your communication across the board should be consistent and give current and prospective employees an understanding of your company vision and values. This is sometimes known as your employer brand.
  2. Ensure that your policies around social media aren’t just procedural and process driven. Instead use them to set out how employees’ activity on social media should align with their work at the organisation. This isn’t about dictating precisely what employees should do and say on their own accounts, but ensuring they’re given a framework to understand what is acceptable and what isn’t.
  3. Consider launching an employee advocacy programme. Programmes of this type aren’t just effective in amplifying your messages on social to a wider network, but also give your staff the opportunity to access additional training and understanding of social media and how it is used in your organisation.

Whether the changes being outlined by Tim Davie will be implemented successfully or whether we’ll see some big names departing for outlets where being outspoken on social media is a more acceptable (some might even say necessary) part of the job remains to be seen – either way it’s bound to make for some compelling viewing.

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