AKRON — Last social media blog I spoke with an attorney about social media use for employees — how they are protected and how they are not.
While that blog shed some light on what employers can expect from a legal aspect, I also wanted to speak to people in the tire industry about how they interact with employees about social media.
I spoke to Downington, Pa.-based United Tire & Service and Lewiston, Maine- based VIP Tires & Services to discuss this topic. I was interested to know how they determine what employees post to the company's social media accounts and if they address these topics with their employees about their personal use.
Shana Steigerwalt, president of Modern Driven Media L.L.C., assists United Tire with its social media accounts. She said when she started working with the tire dealer, United didn't think that addressing employees and social media was important.
“However, as the team is becoming more active in providing information and pictures, we see the benefit of having employees get involved online to help brand our community,” she said.
I also touched based with Greg Mynaugh, president of United Tire, who said: “This discussion is on our radar along with a refresh of employee manuals. It all centers around transparency.
“If you disagree with something that is posted, on any social media it is acceptable to disagree with what is posted. If it involves your employer and you wish to respond it requires full transparency in your correspondence. That is to say, that you are candid in that your frame of reference is that of an employee. More and more we will be defining what is considered appropriate conduct.”
Basically, United Tire understands that everyone has a right to freedom of speech on social media. The company has created a brand that gives employees something to be proud of and that can translate into social media.
They did note that there will be some guidelines in 2016 about how much time employees can spend on social media during work hours.
Jason Terry, VIP Tires & Service marketing manager, spoke to me about how social media is handled at his company's shop. He told me that he himself handles all Facebook conversations for the brand and that it is the main source of its online communication with customers.
I asked Jason if the company ever had a social media error that caused issues and he said one time a customer post and a negative post went viral. Jason said it wasn't because of a fault with the company's social media policy, but the way the company handled it allowed it to grow to a viral status. However, the company learned from this experience and it completely changed the level of attention VIP pays to social media.
“In the end we learned how to communicate with customers in a fashion that controls our social brand image,” he said.
VIP does discuss social media policies with employees and states employees shall not “make vicious, malicious or inappropriate comments or statements about the company, its vendors and customers.”
He said that this is rarely every an issue, though.
“If you hire the right people and treat them well, you are not going to have this problem,” Jason added.
Additionally, when an employee replies to a comment on the brand's Facebook page, he will review it to ensure it matches VIP's conversation style. He does not want to discourage store employees from engaging with customers, but would not a bunch of employees trying to speak for VIP either.
As far as employees using personal social media accounts at work, Jason said that since the majority of employees are customer facing or working in the service bays, they wouldn't have a lot of time to use personal social media at work.
Part of why social media is great for a company is because it engages with its customers. Well, in your tire shop, it's your employees who are engaging with your customers. When you think of it in those terms, it can make sense to allow them to reach out, but you may want to have some guidelines for how this is done.