Social media policies should be updated to keep pace with new trends and employees need to be reminded of these codes of conduct through regular discussions.
Stree Naidu, vice president of Imperva in Asia-Pacific and Japan, said the data security company has different policies for different social media platforms such as Facebook, blogs and Twitter. "Tailoring policies according to the different networks makes it easier for employees to understand and adhere to," he explained.
Public relations firm, Text100 Singapore, also has an existing social media policy which it reviews and updates every six months, said Kristian Marc Olsen, its digital lead and account director.
Stephanie Ciccarelli, co-founder and CMO at Canada-based online marketplace Voices.com, said the company updates its social media policy along with its employee handbook at least once a year.
In addition, it reviews its social media policy whenever a new social networking Web site gains mainstream attention, Ciccarelli told ZDNet Asia. This will alert the company to evaluate and ensure the use of these new networks is covered by the policy, she said, pointing to Pinterest as an example.
Imperva also reviews its social media policy when there are changes to existing social networks.
Naidu noted: "When there is a new feature introduced to a social network that changes the way users behave or communicate, we will look into this change and the potential implications and risks.
"Take Facebook, for example, the introduction of Timeline earlier this year had a huge impact on what content is now available on your profile," he said.
S'pore worker fired over Facebook post
Singapore's online community was abuzz over comments posted on Sunday by Amy Cheong, who was assistant director of membership at Singapore's National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), on her Facebook wall and touched on issues about the Malay community which many deemed racist.
Her remarks quickly went viral and led to her dismissal from NTUC. A spokesperson told ZDNet Asia the organization's terms and condition of employment includes one which states: "All staff shall observe proper decorum in their communication to the external public at large and to all forms of media."
In a media statement released Monday evening, NTUC's secretary-general Lim Swee Say, said: "NTUC takes a serious view on racial harmony in Singapore. We will not accept and have zero tolerance toward any words used or actions taken by our staff that are racially offensive."
Regular discussions help employees remember
The executives shared that social media policies are introduced to all their new employees during orientation and kept in the minds of current workers through frequent discussions.
Noting that new employees are briefed on these policies when they first join the company, Olsen from Text100 said: "When interesting 'case studies' come along, we discuss our learnings and key takeaways during our weekly staff meetings and use these to reinforce the importance of compliance to our social media policies.
"We also take measures to instill our policy among staff whenever there are updates to it," he added.
Ciccarelli said Voices.com ensures employees observe its social media policy by educating them during orientation training which involves going over the employee handbook and highlighting policies on social media use.
She added that workers also have other opportunities to discuss issues related to social media at weekly group training events its calls, Training Tuesdays.
Penalty for breaking the rules
According to Naidu, Imperva implements strict social media guidelines and will enforce them whenever required. The company has not experienced situations where employees have breached such guidelines, but it is ready to review and act on it on a case-by-case basis.
Ciccarelli said infringements of social media policies are rare at her company.
"If violations do happen, the staff member is spoken to about it to ensure it doesn't happen again," she said, adding that when it does happen, policy breach usually involves an employee jumping in on a social media conversation which should have been deferred to the company's designated social media manager or CMO.
Pointing to NTUC's decision to sack its assistant director, Amy Cheong, over comments she made on Facebook (see box story), Naidu said this move was understandable as NTUC was a well-known organization in Singapore and the backlash had extended to a national level.
However, he said, Imperva would adopt a similar approach only as a last resort.
"First we would make sure we conduct a thorough investigation and explore other 'counseling' methods if possible," he noted.
Olsen added that in a similar situation, Text100 would accept the mistake and inform the public an employee's views are personal and not shared by the company.
It would also provide counseling so the employee can learn the error of her ways.
"Ignorance begets ignorance so firing her is not a long-term solution," he said. "I would rather educate her to learn more about the Malay culture and people [which were the targets of Cheong's Facebook comments], perhaps through volunteering or community service."
Naidu added that the incident served as a good lesson to other organizations that the best way to mitigate risk and prevent mishaps is to first make sure a social media policy is properly established.
"Having a social media policy in place and ensuring employees are fully educated and informed of the consequences of a breach is the best preventive measure," he said.
Olsen concurred, stressing the importance of having a social media policy. "Some brands are still new to social media and feel a social media policy is something they do not need right now. This is something they need to address," he said.
"You never know when an employee may post something that goes against your brand values and mission. Hence, it is important to impart this into a policy made known and available to your employees. They need to know their actions online ultimately reflect their employer," Olsen added.