Okay…now read this. This is important.

I just was scanning Twitter and saw a post by one of my favorite sports reporters, Danny O’Neil from the Seattle Times. He posted a blog on the Aaron Curry situation and how it’s trending on Twitter. For those of you not following Seattle Seahawks football, Aaron Curry is the team’s recently benched linebacker who was their first round draft pick three years ago. Curry for all accounts is a hard worker, good teammate, and a physical specimen. He just hasn’t gotten it done on the field and it cost him his starting job. O’Neil points out that Twitter is going gangbusters on Curry’s demotion with Curry acknowledging friends, foes, and fans on his account.

For his part, Curry has been gracious. He doesn’t engage the loudmouths who heckle him from behind the cyberspace curtain. He has kept his composure and professionalism You can read some of the comments on O’Neil’s blog. That being said, Curry has also acknowledged that he would welcome finding a new home, specifically back in his home state of North Carolina with the Panthers. And the beat goes on as does the trending on Twitter.

Here is why you need to take notice. Curry is an employee under contract with the Seattle Seahawks. He is engaging in real-time conversations with both people he knows and doesn’t know regarding his job on Twitter. He also openly agrees that he would be willing to find a new situation. This will undoubtedly continue. You have employees who have access to Twitter. They may not have the same high-profile as an NFL player, but they probably have an account and use it as a tool at some level.

  • What if they got on their Twitter account and started talking about their job?
  • What if they started openly soliciting their services to others?
  • What if they were unhappy and unlike Curry were willing to voice that displeasure?
  • How would you know it was happening?
  • How could you mitigate damage to your reputation?
  • Do you have a communications plan that includes the personal and professional use of Twitter?
  • How long are you willing to keep your head in the sand?

Here is the bottom line. If you don’t have a plan for dealing with social media and your business, you are going to be as obsolete as the iPhone 4 will be in about a week. Your employees can Tweet, Friend, Post, Blog, Like, Look, Poke, Prod and a whole bunch of other things all from the comfort of their office chair on their own personal phone. They can talk about you, your business, your clients, your prospects, and anything else they want. What have you done to protect yourself?

Here’s what you need to do. It’s painless and free.

  1. Create a social media plan for your organization. Do a little research and find out what the “hot” social media platforms are. I guarantee you that they are changing and shifting constantly. Start with Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google +, and You Tube first and then move on.
  2. The plan should identify potential perils, what you consider to be professional etiquette and expectations, professional reference during personal use, and disciplinary actions if violated.
  3. Engage your employees in the process. Have them craft it. If you cram it down their throats it will come across as threats and Big Brother-ish. If they are part of the solution, you may find that they do a better job of policing themselves!
  4. Find someone in your organization who will be responsible for monitoring social media platforms. This need not be a full-time job. You might just find someone who likes doing it, is good at it, and will watch out for your backside.
  5. Monitor and maintain. Once you start this process, make sure it stays relevant. Technology changes and so should your policy. review and update it every 3-6 months. Continually ask for feedback from your employees. Be consistent in discipline, but also reward for good behavior. Find ways to leverage social media for good, not evil.

Bonus. You may not be covered for claims arising out of social media issues. Your Commercial General Liability policy excludes coverage for personal and advertising injury arising out of “electronic board and chat rooms.” That’s social media platforms and your blog. You can find coverage through special policies and most professional liability policies. Your next step should be to contact your insurance broker and ask the simple question, “Am I covered for liability arising out of social media?” If it takes him or her longer than about 3 seconds to answer, you may have a problem.

Take note of what’s happening to employers around you (like the Seahawks) and how their employees (like Curry) can impact the organization and then look inward. You may need to work on your own game!

You may now return to your regularly scheduled day…

© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved


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