We have been living in a world driven by social media for some time now. From the fledgling days of MSN (now dead and buried, with its torch passed to Skype), and Bebo (relaunched as a messenger app), to today’s mighty behemoths of Facebook and Twitter, social media has grown and grown as a tool for friends and families to stay in touch.

However, it has only been relatively recently that social media has really shown its potential as a tool for business. Sure, back in the day, MySpace was a great place for bands to promote themselves and post their videos, but never showed anything like the marketing potential that we see in more modern platforms.

However, as a certain arachnidan hero’s dear-departed uncle would say, “with great power, comes great responsibility,” and the power of social media as a tool for business carries with it much in the way of this message.

Hardly a month goes by that we don’t hear of some social media disaster, whether it be perpetrated by some ill-thought-out promotional effort, or some wayward employee who hadn’t considered the implications of their social media rants.

It’s no exaggeration that businesses and careers can be ended on the double-edged sword of social media, so you want to be making sure that your staff are thoroughly schooled up on exactly what is expected of them when it comes to their online endeavours, both professional and private.

Allow us, then, to assist with our guide on making sure that your staff are all aboard the social media express – with a valid ticket.

#1 Get a Policy Set in Stone

Signed document

Most companies now have an official social media policy. If your business doesn’t have one then you should be making it a top priority.

You want to have the guidelines drawn up and produced as a document that new employees need to read, understand and sign at the same time they sign their contract of employment.

Some companies make it a part of the contract itself, but we would recommend not doing this. By having it as a separate document you will emphasise its importance, as well as improving the chance that it will be attended to, and not ignored or skimmed over.

You need to make it absolutely clear what you expect from your employees when it comes to social media, and what will not be tolerated.

#2 Implement a Training Program

With the social media policy in place, you now want to make sure that your employees know what they can do to make sure they adhere to it.

You can instruct them on the best ways to manage their privacy settings, so that their extra-curricular activities are not associated with their place of work. As well as the dangers of using workplace IT to access unsecured webpages.

One of the big problems with unmanaged social media access at work is people logging-in on their work computers and clicking on external links. This can create an absolute nightmare for IT staff as it potentially exposes the company infrastructure to viruses and other cyber-attacks.

This is why many companies have a blanket ban on accessing social media through work computers. However, people often find ways of getting round security measures, which makes thorough training in the matter crucial.

Employees who are responsible for managing the company’s own social media accounts will need another set of training altogether, however.

They will need to be trained on what is acceptable to post and what is not. Apart from that, a lot of your customers may use social media to get in touch, and not all of the communications will be positive. This means that employees will need to be training in the appropriate manner with which to deal with complaints that have been made on your public feeds.

You do not want your employees getting into public slanging matches.

#3 Follow Through With Disciplinary Procedures

Man behind bars

Many people may disregard rules around social media with an attitude of, “it’s only [insert social media platform], what does it matter?”

You need to make sure that people understand that the rules around employee use of social media are more than just guidelines, and are absolutely to be taken seriously. And the only way to achieve this (apart from constantly banging on about it) is to make sure that the rules are enforced.

You shouldn’t name and shame anyone that breaks the rules, but it can be a good idea to send out an email explaining which rule was broken, what the disciplinary action taken was, and a reminder as to why it is important.

Make sure that people understand the consequences of any subversion of the rules, and that they will be adhered to. Remember, it’s your business that is at risk.

So, there you have our top three suggestions for making sure your staff are up to speed on social media. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments, and whether or not you’ve experienced any social media disasters yourself.

Have fun.