The Elephant in the Office: How to Address Social Media Use with Your Employees

By Kelly Heitz

There’s no denying it. Social media has become an integral part of our lives and our businesses. In a June 2016 survey from Pew Research Center, 77 percent of 2,003 American workers surveyed reported they use social media while at work. Much of your company’s reputation and image is reflected on social media, which is why creating a social media policy for employees to follow could be a great idea.

Julie Pankey, managing partner at JMPankey Partners, specializes in helping her spa clients formulate social media policies. She notes that “there are two reasons we have developed a social media policy for our spa clients: to prevent associates from being distracted when their primary focus should on the guest, and to encourage associates to engage in social media, when appropriate, to act as brand ambassadors.”

Social media policies can be as simple or as detailed as you see fit, but they should address these two main topics.

Social Media at Work

If you’re asking guests to lose their phones during treatments, your employees should do the same. Asking employees to refrain from even carrying their cell phones in guest-facing areas is essential to portraying the kind of relaxing and unwinding environment you want. Your employees should understand that customer service is their priority while at work, and there is no reason they should need to communicate with anyone else.

“We do not allow cell phone usage in guest facing areas of the spa,” says Ingrid Middaugh, spa director at Spa Anjali at The Westin Riverfront Beaver Creek in Avon, Colorado. “There are always tasks that need to be accomplished each day and therefore we also discourage the use of social media while at work.”

Pankey agrees by saying, “Unless you are the dedicated social media manager, you should not be on social media unless posting a job related post.”

To help employees understand and stick to a social media policy, include a clear and concise written policy in all orientation materials. This way, your employees know from the very beginning what is expected of them.

“Our social media and cell phone use policy has its own section in an associate handbook and is reviewed during orientation for all new hires,” says Pankey. “Our spa managers enforce the policy on a day to day basis through training, coaching, encouragement and counseling, if needed. Just as with any other policy; communication, setting clear expectations, training, monitoring and coaching is the key to success.”

Employee Representation on Social Media

Because social media is so prevalent, a bigger problem spas might face is the impact their employees’ posts can have on their brand. “We had an employee post a comment that was unprofessional and thus lead to the implementation of a policy that is now included in our company handbook,” says Middaugh. “So many people are influenced by what they read online, whether it’s true or false. It’s important to protect the reputation of your business.”

It would be impossible to regularly monitor each employee’s social media accounts. Plus, many employees might view it as intrusive. Instead, give employees clear instructions on how to mention or reference your spa on social media. Provide them with appropriate hashtags, examples of proper responses to comments, and the etiquette you expect of them while on social media.

“Just as we set guidelines for appropriate associate behavior, making right choices and leading by example both in and out of the workplace, I believe that guidelines for appropriate social media behavior and etiquette are critical,” says Pankey. “It is important for us to remind our teams that online content lives on forever. Think before you post. If there’s the slightest hint that someone may be offended or embarrassed by your post, it is most likely a post you should rethink.”

The 6 R’s of Social Media

When in doubt, Middaugh refers her employees at Spa Anjali at The Westin Riverfront Beaver Creek to the six R’s of social media usage.

1. Reason.

Simply put: use reasonable etiquette, the same as you would offline.

2. Represent yourself.

Anonymous profiles lend themselves to more negative content.

3. Responsibility.

Make sure that what you’re saying is factually correct, and that it doesn’t violate any legal guidelines that prohibit revealing information that is confidential or proprietary.

4. Respect.

What you say online is a permanent record, so don’t say anything online you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to the whole office – with a camera rolling.

5. Restraint.

Before you hit that send button, pause and reread. If you wouldn’t want that thought or contribution forever associated with your name, don’t post it.

6. No Retaliation.

Don’t take adverse action against any employee for reporting a possible deviation from this policy or for cooperating in an investigation. Any employee who retaliates against another employee for reporting a possible deviation from this policy or for cooperating in an investigation should be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.