For the protection of your company and its employees, it is essential to have an enforceable social media policy by which all employees are governed. This will allow your employees to become personally empowered, while at the same time safeguarding your brand. The following document will outline some best practices for what should be addressed in your social media policy, how indoctrination of employees can be accomplished, and how your policy can be enforced.
How A Social Media Policy Benefits Your Company
If you aren’t convinced about the need for a company-wide policy regarding social media, consider the following points:
- Company Reputation Is Protected – any legal issues which might stem from social media usage can be reduced by defining the risks of usage and clarifying what can be done to avoid them. Protecting your brand should always be of prime importance.
- Establish Standardized Usage – when you set a company-wide policy, you establish expectations and guidelines for employee usage. While this permits a certain level of employee freedom and creativity, it also should limit what they can share on social media, so no harm comes to the company or its branding. Some employees may not even be aware of what’s appropriate and acceptable online, and having guidelines in place will offer some framework for behavior.
- Channel Consistency – when you engage in any kind of social media marketing, you want your message to be consistent across all channels, so as not to be confusing to potential prospects. Any kind of inappropriate posting can undo all the positive imagery you’ve cultivated for your brand name. In fact, your social media policy is a good place to establish the kind of voice and tone you want to project for your company, and this can reap powerful benefits as it encourages engagement from users. The use of images and video should also be addressed in the social media policy, as it relates to your brand, because consistency and positive image are crucial.
Points To Include In Your Social Media Policy
Some of the most important points to include your policy on social media usage are the following:
- Regulations For Usage – it is essential that you provide clear rules for how employees are expected to behave with their own social media accounts, as well as through company-operated channels. Any company-specific rules should be reiterated here for clarity, and very specific language should address expectations for appropriate behavior.
- Accountability – you should consider whether or not you will mandate that employees include a disclaimer with any personal profiles, for instance, “All opinions expressed are my own, and have no association with my company”.
Overall Conduct – you may want to outline specific conduct considered acceptable and that which is considered unacceptable. For example, you don't want to end up with a crisis on your hands because of an employee posting a photo like this (the employee was fired as a result):
- Confidentiality – your policy should make it clear what your company policy is on sharing any news about internal events like product releases, personnel actions, or company news.
- Responses – employees may need direction on how to respond when they encounter negative posts about the company, or complaints directed against the company. Sometimes the best response to such situations is no response at all.
Minimize Employee Downtime
Human nature being what it is, employees are going to be attracted to the call of social media for personal communication in addition to whatever company-related business might be addressed. While a little bit of this is to be expected, it could result in significant loss of productivity if the time involved came to be excessive, and this is doubly true if a large number of employees were to be involved.
By having a social media policy in place which provides clear guidelines for appropriate times and usage of social media, a great deal of that kind of behavior will be sidestepped. In those cases where certain employees persist with personal usage and lost productivity, there should be enforcement measures identified to handle such eventualities.
Establishing Roles To Support Your Social Media Policy
Your social media policy will probably be accepted to a much greater extent and will be much more enforceable when you have clearly established beforehand what kind of roles various personnel will have before implementation. There should be no uncertainty in the minds of employees about ownership and enforcement of the policy itself, as well as the consequences of non-compliance. It may be that different sections of the policy are to be governed and monitored by different departments, and that should be all be clearly conveyed to employees right up front. Here are some of the specific sections which need to have clearly defined roles of responsibility:
It may be that different sections of the policy are to be governed and monitored by different departments, and that should be all be clearly conveyed to employees right up front. Here are some of the specific sections which need to have clearly defined roles of responsibility:
- Legal issues
- Safety and security
- Guidelines for the company brand
- Social media approval for postings
- Customer service protocol
- Maintenance of the policy
- Implementation and training for the policy
Social Media Guidelines For Safety And Security
A clearly defined social media policy can avoid all kinds of online threats such as phishing scams, malware, hacking into accounts, and the potential for human error. Cyber criminals have a known preference in fact, for targeting employees, because they are often found to be the weakest link in any security system. Much of that vulnerability can be closed up by a strong social media policy that avoids the kind of errors typically exploited by hackers.
When you’re developing your social media policy, make sure to include all your company stakeholders, because they will probably all have a hand in supporting and enforcing it after implementation. This personnel should include your company’s legal team, I.T. personnel, security and compliance managers, and various members of upper management. There are some considerable benefits which accrue to the company which enthusiastically implements and enforces a social media policy. The company brand name remains protected, a uniform message is declared across all platforms, employees are properly educated about confidentiality and appropriate online behavior, and a clear reference document is established for posting personal and company-related material.
It’s also worth noting that there can be some considerable negative consequences for not establishing a clear set of guidelines for social media usage. If any company employee should make a social media gaffe that is associated with the company, it could literally take years to restore public trust in the brand name and to recover good business standing.
Looking for examples of social media policies? Check out the Social Media Policy Database.