Social media has changed the way we do business at almost every level of the dealership and it has changed the landscape of how we engage and communicate with our customers. And just like the policies that we have to control other types of unwanted behavior, we need to develop a strong social media policy to address how we expect our employees to engage with our customers online through social media.
Why does your dealership need a social media policy? Below are just a few reasons why you need to craft a well-thought-out and written social media policy:
- It educates your dealership’s employees. Just like your dealership’s employee manual, a social media policy educates your employees on what is acceptable behavior and not acceptable behavior when engaging on social media. And just like your employee manual, having a social media policy doesn’t stop 100 percent of the unwanted behavior that is contained therein, but it does set forth what you expect from your employees. Social media and human resource professionals recommend that your social media policy not be tucked in the normal employee manual — it should be a separate policy. In addition, once you have crafted and implemented a sound social media policy for your dealership, you should update it on a regular basis.
- It defines what is acceptable and legal social media behavior. As I was studying for my professional certification in social media strategy, I learned what was acceptable and what was illegal in reference to what I was posting on various platforms both personally and for my business. You need to stress to your employees that they cannot just post anything that they want on social media while working for the dealership. You need to educate yourself and your employees to have respect for others property in the form of copyright and trademarks. You also need to educated yourself on the legal constructs of slander and libel. Remember that you are a business and that you are vicariously responsible for what your employees post. If it is not your property and you do not have the permission of the owner to post it, then don’t do it.
- It outlines the right and wrong ways to engage with your customers on social media platforms. By having a dealership-wide social media policy, you are setting the expectation with your employees on the right and wrong ways to engage with your customers while using social media. It is a completely different ball game when people engage with their friends and family on Facebook, for example, than when a business engages with its customers. Employees need to know the difference, and a social media policy outlines expected and accepted behaviors while carrying out dealership business online through various social media platforms.
- It defines what is considered unacceptable behavior while using social media. Your social media policy needs to clearly define what behaviors are considered acceptable and unacceptable while engaging on social media. In addition, you need to be clear on what the consequence will be for the violation of your dealership’s social media policy. Remember that what is posted online stays there pretty much forever in one form or another. It is sort of akin to the phrase “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” This is not the case with postings on social media. Make sure that your employees understand the consequences, for example, of partying and displaying inappropriate behavior on social media while wearing a dealership uniform. This type of behavior definitely puts a shadow on the reputation of the dealership and the brands you carry. Such behaviors should be addressed clearly in your social media policy.
- Designate an official dealership point-of-contact in dealing with tough questions on social media platforms. Are you going to let anyone in your dealership deal with customer complaints and issues? Or are you going to appoint a company point person to deal with the tougher dealership issues while engaging online with your customers? Whatever you decide, your social media policy should address these important and potentially explosive issues. Your employees should know when and how to escalate consumer issues to a higher level. Remember that your customers are valuable and so is your online reputation. Make sure that you state what you expect from your employees so that they know how to handle difficult situations.
Social media is not a fad, and it is certainly not going away. Developing a strong social media policy for your dealership is your best defense against unwanted behavior and sets the tone from the top of the dealership on what is expected when engaging online with your customer.
Social media is considered in its infancy, and it is changing and developing every day at the speed of light. We need to embrace social media and have it interwoven into all aspects of dealership life. Yes, we will make mistakes in our social media journey, but let’s learn from those mistakes that we and others have made along the way.
Just like policy and procedure guides and employee manuals from the past look much different than those of today, social media policies must be continually evolving. We must define what we expect from our employees and hold them accountable for maintaining the reputation of the dealership. The answer is a strong, ever evolving, social media policy that sets online behavioral expectations and governs dealership behavior.
It’s just good business.
Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for more than 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.