Social Media is a critical aspect of every business. Without social media, it is significantly more difficult for businesses to connect with customers on a personal level. Employers face a crossroads on whether to limit employee social media use or empower employees to be vocal representatives of the company online. Both decisions have positives and negatives, and recent studies show that regardless of company policy, 47% of employees are using social media to connect with customers.
Businesses must protect their brand reputation by developing guidelines that inform employees about what is appropriate behavior online and what is not. According to the Pew Research Center 63% of employers lack any sort of social media policy. Unfortunately, the companies that lack a social media policy are also the companies that scramble to develop last minute responses to PR disasters.
Building A Social Media Policy
Social media policies are important, and it is imperative that any company that utilizes social media strategies must first develop a social media policy that employees can reference. With that said, what should be included in your company social media policy?
Social Media strategy without established goals is not a strategy. It is very important to understand why your company is using social media and what the intended outcome is from social media use. Before a social media policy can be written, a company must understand who they are and what they hope to accomplish by utilizing social media. By establishing clear goals, companies can set a tone on how they expect employees to utilize social media and how it relates to the company.
Define Who Can Post
Just because an employee wants to post about the company on social media does not mean they should. One of the most important pieces of a company social media policy is to clearly define who is permitted to post and represent the company online. Who is permitted to create new social media accounts for the company? Who is permitted to post on official company social media profiles? Are employees permitted to delete anything form company social media platforms without direct permission?
Along with the “Who”, employers must also define the “What”. Effective social media policies must include guidelines and standards that clearly define what is appropriate to post on company channels, as well as what must be avoided and why. According the The Social Shakeup – here are some questions to consider when deciding who should post on your company social media profiles:
- Which department should handle social?
- Do you have a dedicated social media manager? Does that person have a team that works with them?
- Are there times when the person posting to social will need to get approval prior to posting?
- Who will design posts, to keep consistency in both tone of voice and imagery?
- How should the social team respond to messages and complaints?
- Will you remove posts or comments, and under what circumstances?
- Who is in charge of social media strategy and management during a PR crisis?
Don’t Discourage Posting
Empowered employees are authentic. When developing a social media policy it is important to make sure it isn’t so restrictive that employees are scared to share company related content on social media. Employees should be encouraged to share positive company press or media on social media accounts. This provides a glimpse into your company culture and appeals to customers who appreciate authenticity. It is important to make sure that it is understood that employees must make sure what they post is responsible and professional.
What is Considered Prohibited Behavior
All social media policies should clearly define what is considered prohibited Behavior. Research must be done to consider industry laws and regulations on what should be posted and what should not. It is advised that Human Resource Departments as well as Legal Departments be consulted during the writing phase of your company social media policy. Your company social media policy should clearly layout what is considered inappropriate. Some examples of banned content should include:
- Any media that could be offensive
- Copyright infringement
- Anything Illegal
Employees must be aware of confidentiality concerns when posting on social media. Examples of company items that should remain confidential are:
- Business Plans
- Mergers or Acquisitions
- Client information
It is best practice to specifically outline what the company considers to be confidential so that there is no misunderstanding, assumption, or ignorance by employees.
Employers should be transparent in how they plan to enforce the policy, and what the consequences are if an employee violates the social media policy set in place. Including specific verbiage such as “violation of this policy can result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination” is recommended.
In closing, it is extremely important for all companies to include a social media policy in their employee handbook. This policy should not only include information on appropriate behavior on company owned platforms, but also include what is appropriate for employee personal social media activity. Policies should be easy to understand and easy for employees to reference. By outlining your expectations and setting a clear understanding up front, employees will fully understand how to represent the brand online and they will feel empowered to use social media in a responsible manner.
Carter, Rebekah. “Your Guide to Creating a Social Media Policy.” Sprout Social, 21 Aug. 2020, sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-policy/.
Lampe, Cliff, and Nicole B. Ellison. “How Americans Use Social Media at Work.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020, www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/06/22/social-media-and-the-workplace/.
Editor, Business News Daily. “10 Tips on Writing Social Media Policy.” Business News Daily, Businessnewsdaily.com, 4 Jan. 2013, www.businessnewsdaily.com/3685-social-media-policy-development.html.