If there was ever any doubt about the power and reach of social media, that was certainly removed when Facebook broke the one billion users in a day threshold a few years ago.
There is nothing with the reach, the flexibility, the intimacy and the immediacy of social media in the digital (or any other) marketing sphere today.
If your business is not on social media yet, it should be.
But just like social media can get your brand in the hearts, minds and homes of your online fans immediately, it can also create instant problems. One badly thought out tweet. One slightly suspect Instagram post, and you could find yourself fighting to defend your business – even if you weren’t the one who made the mistake.
Proper planning is essential. So, read on to find out what a social media policy is, and how you can make it work for your business.
What is a social media policy?
Social media policies are an extension of any other company policy governing employee behaviour, but they’re specific to social media. They create guidelines for appropriate use, set penalties for misuse, and dictate the tone and content of your company’s social presence. They also usually include a social media specific non-disclosure clause, to protect company secrets.
Why is a company social media policy for employees important?
Every time your employees say anything to the public during working hours, they’re representing your company. The same goes for their social media activities on company accounts. If you don’t have a social media policy that is clear and concise, and gives them proper parameters, you may find that your staff are reluctant to get involved.
After all, they know their behaviour online will reflect on you, and they know that bringing the company into disrepute would be a problem. So, unless they’re sure what is and is not allowed, they might opt out completely.
It seems counterintuitive but having the rules in place from day one will go a long way to better social media marketing.
Teamwork wins the day
It takes a village mentality to create a digital presence, and getting your team engaged and sharing their passion for your company, products and services is the first step towards success. After all, if your own people aren’t passionate and engaged, how can you expect anyone else to?
A social media policy will help your employees to feel comfortable getting involved.
Fear causes inaction and mistakes
When we’re afraid, we naturally go into “fight or flight” mode. Neither of those is a good response to online conflict!
When you have a social media policy in place, your employees will know how to deal with difficult situations, and when to defer to senior team members. All that means a better experience for your fans and followers, and that leads to an expanded social footprint.
People are less trusting of official sources
Even in the age of social media, word of mouth marketing is key. If the only people active on your company social media accounts are your CEO, that word of mouth will have a very hollow ring to your followers.
A social media policy can encourage ordinary team members to get involved, and when customers and potential customers see that, they’re more likely to trust the message.
Not only can a social media policy help to drive positive engagement, it can also help to protect you from the fallout from poor choices. Here are a few ways a documented policy can do just that:
It can protect your company’s reputation
Social media has more reach than major newspapers. It’s faster than news channels, and if a post goes viral, it can literally reach millions of people around the world in a matter of hours.
Ensuring that your employees know exactly what they can post ensures that the things your employees post don’t get you all sorts of negative attention. Because no matter how little you had to do with what they said, if it was said on your behalf, it’ll be your problem.
Helps defend against, and avoid legal trouble and security risks
Social media seems like fun and games. But companies have been sued for not moderating comments on their pages.
Major corporate secrets have been leaked online.
There have been countless cases of copyright and privacy law infringement.
Get your legal team on board to safeguard against those situations, and to give your employees clear steps to follow if something does go wrong.
A great way to educate employees about social media
Corporate social media is so much more than cat pictures and hashtags.
A social media policy will help to educate your employees about appropriate corporate use of these platforms and keep them (and you) out of trouble, including trouble with the sites themselves. No one wants a banned account!
For reminding employees of hazy personal-professional boundaries
Since social media does sometimes blur the line between professional and personal use, it’s a good idea to address this in your social media policy too. While you can’t dictate what people do in their private lives, you can remind them to keep their personal accounts private, so their behaviour there doesn’t impact the company.
Educates employees that they should present views in a professional way
From the content you share to your spelling and grammar, presenting a professional front on social media can be tricky. Your policy should address the guidelines for professional social media use.
To ensure that workplace conflicts and gripes remain private
Office politics happen. But they should stay in the office. Never allow employees to take their gripes with co-workers online. Make sure your social media policy addresses this, and that there are clear channels to resolve problems.
Making it clear whose opinion is being presented
If your employees do have publicly visible profiles, make sure they include a disclaimer that their views are not necessarily the views of the company.
Clarifying that employees are representing an employer across ALL social media platforms
Make sure that your social media policy is worded to encompass all publicly available profiles where there is a link to your company.
Preventing confidential and proprietary information and data breaches
A specific non-disclosure or confidentiality policy in your social media policy is a must. Make sure your employees know what you consider to be company secrets, and what the consequences of a breach would be.
What should a social media policy include?
Putting together a comprehensive social media policy for your employees can be quite a big job. To help you with this, here is an outline of the sections that social media giant HootSuite recommend you should have:
1. Rules and regulations
- Brand guidelines: How to talk about your company and products
- Etiquette and engagement: Outline how — and if — you want employees to respond to mentions of your brand (positive and negative)
- Confidentiality: Defines what company information should not be shared on social media
- Consequences: Instructs employees and managers on the consequences of abuse of social media
- Social media for personal use: Lays out how and when employees should use social media, and what to avoid
2. Roles and responsibilities
Social media roles and responsibilities to assign might include:
- Message approval
- Crisis response
- Customer service
- Social engagement
- Security and legal concerns
- Staff training
- Social media monitoring
3. Potential legal risks
Some topics that this section should cover are:
- Crediting sources: Where did this come from? Your policy should specify how your team will credit original sources if they are reposting or borrowing content from an external source (an image, for example).
- Privacy and disclosure procedures: Define what is considered confidential and non-sharable, such as plans for a rebranding announcement or customer information.
- Employee disclaimers: Tell employees to include a disclaimer when publicly commenting on content related to your business that identifies them as an employee. For example, “views expressed are mine and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer.” You may also suggest employees add such a disclaimer to any publicly accessible bio, such as Twitter or LinkedIn.
4. Security risks
Your policy should provide guidelines on how to:
- Create secure passwords and set up two-factor authentication
- Keep software and devices updated
- Avoid phishing attacks, spam, scams, and other malicious threats
- How to identify an attack
- How to respond in the event of a security breach or attack
Immediately point the finger at the employee who went rogue.
But to avoid embarrassment in the first place, remind your people to exercise caution and common sense. Whether they’re posting on behalf of the company or on their personal channels, it’ll be the company’s reputation that suffers.
Social media policy template
Based on the recommended social media policy outlined above, we’ve created a handy (and editable) free employee social media policy template that you can download and edit to make it applicable to your organisation.
We hope that it’s helpful and gets you up and running quickly!
How to implement a social media policy
Get feedback. Employees will be more likely to adhere to policies that they help to draft.
Use broad strokes. Social media changes all the time. You cannot draft a policy that covers every possible scenario. So, set high-level rules that apply to everything, and review often.
Encourage involvement. Your social media policy shouldn’t scare employees away. It should make them comfortable to get involved. Make it easy and fun to get involved in building your social brand.
Policies aren’t universally loved by employees, but they are invaluable in ensuring that everyone knows where they stand.
Create a social media policy that’s reasonable, comprehensive and not too restrictive, and watch your online presence grow!
And remember, we’re always here to help make your brand famous!
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