12 December 2014 By Northern Lights
Office parties in the holiday season are an important part of rewarding and motivating staff, but in the social media age they can be fraught with potential pitfalls for damaging your brand and causing costly employment issues.
With staff’s lives now intertwined with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and a wealth of other social media platforms, occasions like this are catalogued in microscopic detail. The speeches and flamboyant dances are recorded and uploaded to YouTube, the wardrobe malfunctions and drunken antics are photographed and plastered over Twitter and Instagram and the controversial comments and illicit liaisons are gossiped about furiously on YikYak, Facebook and Snapchat.
Today, if it’s not recorded on at least one social media platform, it didn’t happen and that can cause massive HR hangovers for employers.
With every member of the team equipped with smartphones and wearable technology that can instantly record and upload every moment of your annual shindig, it can be a minefield.
But what can employers do to prevent an office party social media crisis? How do you prevent bullying and discrimination in social media forums? And, how do you protect your online brand at the office party?
Creating a social media policy
As always, it is important to remember that office parties are an important aspect of maintaining a productive and happy workplace and employers shouldn’t shy away from this annual reward over social media fears.
The first step is to always have a robust social media policy that clearly outlines to staff what is and isn’t acceptable. If you don’t have a policy, it is crucial you create one now to protect yourself in the event of disciplinary action or any other potential legal issues. You can download a free guide here.
With social media policies, the golden rule is to say that, if staff refer to your business in any way on their platforms, they must follow your guidelines. If they chose not to follow the guidelines, they must not mention the brand in any way.
Inevitably, at the company party it is almost impossible to avoid associating their social media account with their brand so make sure everyone is clear on the policy.
In advance of the party, provide clear written guidelines on what is expected of staff and highlight potential dangers like gossiping about workmates between friends or posting inappropriate images and videos from the night.
Similarly, don’t think the overly used “all opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer” disclaimer will protect you. If they are clearly your employee, whatever they say will still impact on your brand as they will still be perceived as a representative of your company.
What is acceptable social media use at the office party?
Careful use of social media at the office party could help boost your brand. By showing how you value your staff online, you can aid recruitment and also demonstrate your values to potential and existing customers.
Use some images from the night to show staff celebrating a successful year and link it to news and key offers. However, consider cultural issues and avoid showing alcohol.
Similarly, if you are delivering a speech or handing out some awards to staff, share the highlights to help demonstrate your expertise. Staff can also join in this by sharing updates or creating their own within company guidelines.
As it suggests, social media has become a hugely important part of any social occasion and staff shouldn’t be banned from using it. It will cause ill-feeling and resentment and could create negative comments online. It’s about outlining simple guidelines for staff to follow.
As with all social media content, if in doubt leave it out. You could even consider offering guidance on the night and say staff can check what content is appropriate with a senior member of the team – that also creates opportunities to connect with people at every level of the business.
How do I handle an office party social media crisis?
If it’s a misguided comment or image, speak to the member of the team and ask them to remove it and then remind them of their social media obligations.
If the conduct is more serious and requires disciplinary action, make sure your social media policies are robust enough to avoid any counter claims. If they are not, it could result in an embarrassing, costly and public fall-out.
Finally, check Google and all of the social media platforms following the event to see if there has been any negative impact on your brand. If you’re concerned about any content, try to address it at the source and then follow these online reputation management tips to reduce any potential long-term impact.
Social media is an integral part of everyday life and employers need to accept that and provide clear guidelines on how it can be used in association with their brand. If you have any tips on how you manage social media at the office party, please share them in the comments below. Similarly, if you need any help or advice, get in touch.