There have been a few conversations circulating among my network pertaining to the personal life of employees being spread through the social sphere. Here is the overall question:

Does your employee’s personal life matter to your company? Does it affect your company brand?

Some say yes and some say no. The way an employee acts and talks outside of the work has never been more scrutinized than right now. We are living in a world where a mis-sent email, random tweet, or Facebook picture could damage a company and the guilty employee. Let’s run a scenario:

Employee A sends out a Facebook status update to their friends about a club they attended the night before (this could even be a tweet). The status update reads:

I had such a good time last night at Club XYZ. We were really boozing it up and I might have went home with a somebody, but I woke up at my apartment. So we are okay!

Now, I’m not saying that anyone would actually send this… it is only for this scenario. Let’s say that a follower took offense to the comment because the employee worked for a company that touted “ethical values” and shared the comment with their friends… which in turn was shared by a few other people.. and a few other people.. and a few hundred people.

Now the question is… does that affect or hurt the employer? Should employers be more conscious of their employees use of social media? I am torn on the issue and because of this… I decided to ask the opinions of Abbie Fink, Jay Baer, and Jason Falls.

Abbie Fink is Vice President and General Manager for HMA Public Relations :

It is important to remember that there is a very fine line between personal and professional when you are in the social media space.

At our office, I want my team to have some personality and encourage that, in fact.  But knowing that they are representing a variety of different clients, we periodically remind them that any statements on their personal pages must reflect well on us as a business and that of our clients. It is also what I advise when working with clients who are finding their way around Facebook, Twitter, etc.

My guess is that one such post from one employee on their personal page would not damage the employer’s brand. But again, it will be important for that employer to have guidelines in place and monitor what is being said.

Jason Falls is Founder and Tough Guy at Social Media Explorer

That’s why employers and employees need to have social media policies. It’s disappointing that an educated adult would say something offensive or potentially damaging to their career or their company in a public forum, but people mistakenly think that protected Tweets or certain privacy settings mean no one will see it. If you post it, people can see it, capture it, index it and even replicate it so it never goes away.

I tell people they should assume everything they post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on can be seen by their spouse, boss, priest, rabbi, minister, children, grandmother, employees and competitors. If you know that and then post something foolish you get what you deserve.

Companies need social media policies for instances just like this. It can take me less than a minute to see the Tweet, find out who sent it and who they work for. Even if things are private the individual can be found on LinkedIn and Google is really smart and connects the dots. If the individual had been through social media training and been given a company policy it may have stopped the offending tweet.

Jay Baer is Founder and Consultant at Convince and Convert

The lines are continually blurring between personal and professional lives in the online environment. Does it affect you if your employee is a closet dominatrix and readily shares that information to world? Of course it does! It didn’t matter ten…twenty…thirty years ago but it matters now.

It is important to educate your employees on the use of social media and without a policy your dominatrix sales person could sink a client or your bottom line.

There you have it. Jay, Abbie, and Jason are thought leaders in the industry of digital communication and I highly value their opinions. It is important to have a social media policy in place when you encourage your employees to start using social media. The world is an open book and your employees could harm your brand or potential business.

For more information on social media policy development check out Jason’s blog : What Every Company Should Know About Social Media Policy

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