I recently wrote about a group of lifeguards that was fired for posting a video of them lip-syncing to the wildly successful Gangnam rap song. Variations on Gangnam have garnered over 300,000,000 hits to-date on YouTube. Thanks to the ham-handed management of the lifeguard video, firing them under a ‘uniform clause’, the lifeguard video went viral and now has 2,444,701 hits in various videos.
Clearly the employer was concerned about the reputation of their facility and thought that firing the lifeguards sent a clear message. The problem? The message to 2.4 million people is ‘the city is out-of-date’. Social media is not going away. To the great discomfort of employers, parents, government officials, and repressive regimes around the world, social media has all the characteristics of watching a tsunami head to shore and all you have are water wings.
We have a choice – ride the tidal wave of social media, or let it smack us to the bottom. I am firmly in favor of riding the wave, with all the control and excitement that implies. To ride a wave, you need a surfboard, in this case, a social media policy. If the city had to use a ‘uniform policy’ to fire the lifeguards, it meant that they didn’t even have a policy on social media. Don’t make the same mistake.
I put out a request for social media policies and got back one in particular that has the right tone. You need to run any policies by your human resources department and your legal counsel, but this is a great starting place – it makes it clear that: representing your employer does not end at the end of you shift; discrimination in any form is not tolerated; disclosure of confidential business information is not tolerated; and states the repercussions if the policy is violated.
I still believe that we need to leverage YouTube and other media – put the camera in the hands of our amazing, fit and photogenic lifeguards, give them some guidelines, approve the video and then promote it like crazy – but do it intentionally, with a good social media policy in place. This policy doesn’t expressly forbid using social media, but it leaves wiggle room for the employer to determine what is ‘misrepresentation’.
With thanks to the forward-thinking organization that provided their social media policy language:
11) SOCIAL MEDIA As in all interactions whether in the built or virtual environment, you are a representative of the company. As a representative, your positions must be in-line with XYZ Company policies and positions. Guidelines for functioning in an electronic world are the same as the values, ethics and confidentiality policies employees are expected to live everyday, whether you’re Twittering, talking with customers or chatting over the neighbor’s fence. Remember, your responsibility to XYZ Company doesn’t end when you are off the clock. For that reason, this policy applies to both company sponsored social media and personal use as it relates to our company. You should always: • Act responsibly and ethically: When participating in online communities, do not misrepresent yourself. Don’t state you are a manager or representative of XYZ if you are not, and have not been directed to do so. • Honor Our Differences: Live the values. XYZ will not tolerate discrimination (including age, sex, race, color, creed, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, citizenship, disability, or marital status or any other legally recognized protected basis under federal, state, or local laws, regulations or ordinances). • Never disclose our numbers, whether they are financially based or operational. Never disclose any guest information, legal matters, or any confidential information. • NEVER post anything online while at work on the clock. Any violation of this policy will result in termination.