This question came up during my Enterprise University Course 206 yesterday, a very good one, and it provoked quite a bit of discussion. Using social media is too important for marketing a business to be ignored, yet many small business owners lack the time or the interest to actively engage in a social media conversation. So the next best thing is to delegate social media updates to a “trusted” employee or several employees. This is where a clear and concise social media policy would provide a great foundation for transparent communication with clients and potential customers. But what happens when that trust is broken, and an employee becomes disgruntled and lashes out various social networks? This has the makings of a PR disaster, although there are several things that you can do to be proactive in this situation.

Stay on top of your social media profiles to prevent a PR disaster!
Stay on top of your social media profiles to prevent a PR disaster!

Here are my 3 recommendations:

1) Privacy and Security – Only you, as the business owner, should have the master password to your social media personalities. Using a social media aggregator like Hootsuite, you can delegate control of social media profiles to someone else, but you need to monitor the activity closely, and revoke those privileges at the first sign of trouble. Be ready to change your passwords immediately and for greater security, test your password on .

2) Craft a Social Media Policy – Instead of concentrating on what your employee can’t do, concentrate on positive reinforcement on what he or she can do. At the first sign of negative posts, revoke their privileges for posting on behalf of the company. Of course, you can’t control what the employee does on their own personal account, but if they engage on a negative PR campaign against you, it will come off a “sour-graping” and would be a red-flag for a future employer. A key part of a good Social Media Policy is crisis planning – what you will do if this scenario occurs. Sometimes the best response to negative comments is to ignore them, because dignifying the comment with a response could be counterproductive. The alternative is my third recommendation…

3) Bury negative posts with a flurry of positive posts – This is where having a blog and a Twitter account can be very helpful, although it will take a great deal of time and effort to bury the negative posts in the search engine rankings.

Of course, you could avoid all of this stress and outsource your social media marketing to a third-party, such as a public relations company who only has the client’s best interests in mind!