With social media now an integral part of the sales and marketing process, many organisations have embraced employee advocacy as a way of amplifying their campaigns. From senior managers to frontline staff, companies actively encourage employees to participate in conversations on social channels, share relevant content and become brand ambassadors.

However the proliferation of social advocacy can be a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to compliance. A recent study by NexGate, a division by Proofpoint, found the average Fortune 100 firm suffered from a total of 69 unmoderated compliance incidents. The breaches went virtually unnoticed by internal compliance staff. Financial Services firms, which operate in a strict regulatory environment, accounted for the largest incident volume with over 5,000 incidents (over 250 per firm), not least due to the sheer size of their workforce (according to NexGate, the average Fortune 100 firm has over 320 branded social accounts, with over 200,000 followers and 1,500 employee participants – that is a lot of channels and handles to keep track of!).

At the same time employees tweet, post and share social content, with or without their employer’s permission. With the line between the personal and professional increasingly blurred there is always a chance that a comment about work in sneaks in. That in itself is not a bad thing – speaking from the inside of an organisation, individuals often enjoy greater credibility than official company handles, and can infuse a level of personality and authenticity that characterises true advocacy.

Organisations can take proactive steps to strike the right balance between authenticity and compliance, to empower employees to do the right thing on social media:

Social media advocacyDo you have a social media policy?

The social media policy sets out the rules for employee engagement online. These rules apply not only to marketing and communications staff responsible for company-branded channels but govern the conduct of all employees on social media, with the aim to safeguard an organisation against legal claims and reputation damage.

Employee enablement and training

While a social media policy is a good starting point, training might be needed to equip employees with the skills to confidently use social media before encouraging social advocacy. From netiquette to privacy laws, this is a fast evolving space that requires continuous attention and investment. Examples of best practice help enforce positive role models while communicating the business benefits of employee advocacy keeps morale up.

Content publishing and sharing applications

Some employees are prolific content creators; they blog, comment and share genuine content on social channels. However, many others just want to spread the word when something new is happening. A company’s own brand channels should be to go-to resource for official information. Managers need to be clear about the rules for disseminating financial results and other news with material impact or containing sensitive information.

The other option gaining in popularity is to invest in corporate content publishing applications to provide employees with easily shareable, high quality content. The advantage of a branded content portal is that it provides user statistics back to the marketing department while elements of gamification can act as additional incentives for participation.

Cross-departmental escalation processes

How to deal with a social media crisis is one of the most difficult aspect of social media advocacy that organisations grapple with. There is no doubt that in the online world, news spreads fast. Within minutes just one offensive tweet can go viral via screen shots, even after it has been deleted. Do you have an escalation process in place with clear responsibilities? And how to deal with the global nature of social media where posts can spread across geographies and timezones while you are sleeping? Given the potential complexity and unpredictability of social media incidents, more severe cases might require swift escalation to HR, Legal and Management.