How do you handle social media among your employees? - Veterinary Practice
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How do you handle social media among your employees?

KRYSTINE STRAMA-ROLFE explains the need for practices to have a clear ‘social media policy’ in place so that staff will not misuse sites and will have no excuse for posting damaging messages

IT may not seem a particularly important issue because who has time to worry about what their employees are doing on websites such as Facebook and Twitter?

But … did you realise employers are liable as well if their employees write something derogatory on social media sites about someone linked to the business (whether it’s another employee, a customer, a supplier, etc.).

Even if the employee writes the remarks outside of business hours and off business premises, the employer can still be liable.

So how can you protect yourself? The easiest way is to start with a “social media policy” that is given to all employees. Your policy should cover all aspects of how you expect employees to behave.

Even if employees are not making reference to your business, they still need to behave in a certain manner on public sites – for example, it would be unacceptable for your employee to make racist or violent comments/threats.

As an employer, you have responsibilities and you have to protect your reputation. Like it or not, your employees are an extension of your practice’s image, brand and reputation. Comments they make can be linked back to your business and, in extreme cases, may significantly damage the business.

Let’s take an example:

A customer comes into the practice and complains about everything from start to finish. The reception area was too noisy, a dog kept barking at her cat, the appointment was running five minutes late and so on.

An employee recognises the customer (Mrs Smith) and tells her colleague the customer’s name and personal history.

Later that day, the employee who’d been dealing with the customer writes on Facebook: “I’ve had the day from hell, and it didn’t help that Mrs Smith came in and the stupid cow complained about everything. No wonder her husband ran off with the next door neighbour. lol!”

It just so happened that a friend of this employee was also a friend of Mrs Smith and forwarded the comment to her. As you can imagine, Mrs Smith was extremely upset and angry about the post.

The next day, Mrs Smith went into the practice and informed the owner all about the Facebook post, demanding that action be taken against the employee. As the owner did not have a social media policy, the employee argued that she could write whatever she wanted to because she hadn’t been told otherwise.

In order to resolve the situation, the owner ended up paying compensation to Mrs Smith for the hurt and embarrassment caused.

This simple example shows what can happen when a seemingly private comment is made on social media sites. For the employer, it can quickly spiral out of control and ruin his or her reputation. If the employer had a social media policy in place, the whole episode could have been avoided as the employee would have known it was against her employment rules to post such a comment.

Even if the employee had still posted the comment, the employer would have been within his or her rights to take the employee through a disciplinary procedure and potentially resolve the issue without having to pay compensation to the customer.

Social media is still a fairly grey area in employment, as issues have only been coming to the forefront fairly recently. However, the best way to prevent any issues in your practice is to make sure you have a social media policy that all your employees understand and abide by. It’s always better to prevent problems than try to resolve them!

Marketing tool

Social media can be a fantastic marketing tool for your practice, and if it’s used in the right way it can bring in new customers and help to provide a better service for existing customers. But employees need to be given very clear guidance on what is acceptable use of social media within the practice, and what is not acceptable.

It isn’t simply about making sure your employees don’t say the wrong thing. As an employer, it’s also important you provide clear guidelines on how much time employees should spend on social media, and what they should be doing on social media.

For example, if your employees are spending an hour a day on social media, but they only use Facebook (because they can keep up to date with their friend’s posts) then it is not a reasonable use of their time.

Some social media platforms work better than others for your target market, and it’s important to make sure employees aren’t simply using the social media platform they prefer.

Excellent customer service is key to sustaining and expanding your customer base.

Don’t let your employees risk ruining the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build up!

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