News just in: The British Queen and her family are now on Facebook. As of last week it’s possible to “like” the British Monarchy on Facebook. But while it’s great for marketing, social media can also bring great risks. The royal family’s ‘wall’ was suddenly bombarded with nasty comments. The Queen is not alone in this: Domino’s Pizza also found out about social media the hard way. A little over a year ago Domino’s Pizza workers posted a video of themselves on YouTube in which they distastefully tamper with food. The incident led to the discrediting of an entire franchise when the video was picked up by Twitter, and other popular sites, propelling the news to the top of Domino’s Google search and to one million views on You Tube. A New York Times article commented that “Domino’s is realizing [that] social media has the reach and speed to turn tiny incidents into a marketing crisis”. Although the Domino’s case is extreme, the story demonstrates how social media can be a liability. So in the internet jungle, how do you control your company’s profile?

The answer seems simple: draw up a social media policy. Yet even now most businesses have neglected to do this most simple of tasks. A recent row at the Washington Post illustrates how important it is to have rules in place. The newspaper’s official Twitter account was used by one of the journalists to respond to a critic, giving his personal views. Since the tweet related to the controversial issue of gay rights the journalist risked jeopardizing the paper’s impartial reputation . Had the paper given attention to the issue prior to the incident the reporter would have known he had to check with his superior before posting on the internet. It would have been as simple as that.

The policy could simply be a list of what work-related topics and issues employees should not discuss on the internet as an add-on to existing phone and email regulations. A code of conduct serves as an obvious but necessary reminder that internet is just like the real world: rules of common sense apply. It’s about general manners such as being respectful to others or respecting confidentiality and proprietary information.

Drawing up a policy on social media does not mean that internet activity should be shunned. On the contrary, having a presence on forums, Twitter and other social media sites can prove beneficial for companies by demonstrating expertise, customer care initiatives or by strengthening the brand. Last year Dell reportedly made an extra $3 million by engaging Twitter. The company’s 600,000 followers on Twitter clicked their posts and purchased Dell products. Recognizing the positive power of such social media, companies like Zappos, an online shoe and handbag company, provide every new employee with Twitter and customer service training and encourage them to use their personal accounts to boost the company’s profile. Zappos is therefore now equally famous for selling shoes as they are for their social media policy.

The Queen and Domino’s have no doubt learned from the mistakes: The British Monarchy Facebook page now appears to be closely monitored, with the wall only featuring updates on the family and no more comments from visitors. As for Domino’s Pizza, the PR disaster led to a turnaround for the company. “Pizzaturnaround” is the title of their well-rounded social media campaign. The crisis happened online, so they dealt with it online. Domino’s Pizza got a happy ending.

And Domino’s pizza taught other companies a big lesson: don’t underestimate the power and impact of social media. Have a solid social media policy in place. Monitor it and update it. So are you and your employees crystal clear about the do’s and don’ts of social media? If you need assistance in this area, please contact: Carine Middeldorp at