Social Media Policy: Everything You Need to Know
Social media policy for a company sets the guidelines, rules, and responsibilities of employees when they post and comment on social media networks, whether it be personally or professionally.11 min read
Social Media Policy
Social media policy for a company sets the guidelines, rules, and responsibilities of employees when they post and comment on social media networks, whether it be personally or professionally. This policy aids a business in maintaining their brand’s reputation and often encourages employees to share about the business, within guiding principles.
What is Social Media Policy?
Modern social media has higher accessibility than ever before. You can get on a social media network from home, school, or at work. True, your employees might look at their Facebook timeline from time to time. Is it something to worry about? You ought to.
By implementing social media policies, you can steer clear of errors that defy common sense. How lenient to be with a social media policy is up to you and the rest of your managers, depending on how your business is organized. Select what is ideal for your company’s brand and culture. Given that social media is typically part of a company’s inbound marketing approach, does it make sense to completely ban the social media activities of your employees, which could include their sharing company messages with their online networks?
An essential part of social media policy is keeping account of what your employees post and share on social media platforms, particularly regarding matters that apply to work. Questions to ask yourself include how exactly to implement social media policy and will you limit what employees can freely post on social networks or ban them altogether from using these platforms while working? What is best for your business?
Social media policy exists to:
- Explain how employees and organizations are to act online
- Sets out the corporate guidelines regarding online behaviors for employees
- Helps protect your business brand
- Encourages employees to share about the business in appropriate ways
Given how fast the online world moves, you should expect to update your company's social media policy continually. Also, it needn’t be a book; providing a few simple, clear guidelines can be enough in many cases.
Benefits of Social Media Policy
For a start-up or a more experienced and bigger company, a social media policy is recommended for all businesses. If the policy is clear in its message of what employees can and cannot share about the company, then it protects the brand from being tarnished. A quality policy will also address how to react if a mistake should occur online or if a malicious person takes of a social media account.
Defends Against Legal Trouble and Security Risks
Having a social media policy in place can help keep your organization safe from possible legal woes and security-related dangers. It does so by explaining possible threats and how to steer clear of them. Also, your policy ought to say what steps an employee should take if they accidentally jeopardize the company’s reputation or are attacked by a hacker or troll.
Empowers Employees to Share Company Messaging
A big benefit of social media policy is that it can it can grow your brand. You can word the policy regulations such that you make the most of your most vital advocacy group, which is your employees. Plus, messaging from employees is typically more credible than from outsiders. By using straightforward language, the policy can assist your workers in understanding how best to use social media for brand promotion.
If you use the social media policy document to discuss brand promo, be sure to provide best practices for sharing business content on social networks, as well as how to respond to social queries and comments. Using an employee advocacy tool makes it easier for employees to share the type of business content that you approve of and lowers the chances of them sharing inaccurate or off-topic content.
Creates Consistency across Channels
Within the social media policy, explain aspects of the brand, including its voice and tone. This way whenever an employee shares a business-related post or comment on social media it will meet these expectations and be consistent, regardless of which worker it is or which social network. For posts, the brand requirements relate to photos, videos, and other media. If your employees deal with the public, this consistency is even more important and includes how workers’ social media profiles look and act.
Writing a Social Media Policy: Deciding When to Create a Social Media Policy
When it comes to risk reduction for an employer or an employee, the initial line of defense can be a social media policy. While your business may already have a confidentiality policy, this alone may fall short. In the employee handbook, you may want to add some text to ensure the confidentiality agreement includes details on employee activities on social media networks.
A better approach, though, is to craft a separate policy on social media. Keep it on file and ensure employees can easily find it as well as telling them such a policy exists. Jason Falls, a prominent social media strategist at Social Media Explorer, suggests specific types of social media policies, including:
- Corporate Blogging Policy
- Corporate Facebook Account Usage Policy
- Corporate Facebook Brand Page Usage Policy
- Corporate Facebook Public Comments & Messaging Policy
- Employee Personal Blog Policy
- Employee Personal Twitter Account Policy
- Employee Corporate Twitter Account Policy
- Employee LinkedIn Policy
- Corporate YouTube Policy
- Corporate YouTube Public Comments & Messaging Policy
When writing a social media policy, there are two ways you can go about this. You can write one comprehensive social media policy that addresses all the different social networks or you can craft each policy as needed.
What Your Social Media Policy Should Include
The focus of social media is to lead into and share. So, it makes sense to gather your most prominent social media employees to brainstorm and create the social media guidelines, explains LinkedIn community evangelist Mario Sundar. Plus, getting employees involved in policy creation can encourage their advocacy of the policy.
A good policy hones in on what employees can do on social mediums and best practices, rather than what actions are banned. Regarding how to organize the policy, you might find it useful to break it into two categories: one for employee social media account activities and the other for corporate social media account activities. Remember that you needn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to policy creation here.
1. Rules and Regulations
In this part of the social media policy, explain what your business expects for appropriate employee behavior and conduct when acting on behalf of the organization or team on social media networks. Common examples are limiting the use of swear words or scandalous topics in any posts about the business.
The rules and regulations can be put into groups for:
- Brand procedures
- How to discuss product or service details and your business
- Decorum and engagement
- Best practices for how employees respond to public comments about the brand (positive comments and complaints)
- Confidential points
- What details should not be shared with the public
2. Roles and Responsibilities
In the roles and responsibilities section, also explain who is in charge of governing certain social media activities. To help you organize responsibilities, try creating a two-column sheet in which the first column is for a specific social media duty, and the other column has the name of the person who is in charge of it. For example, brand responsibilities would likely fall under the authority of the brand manager. Additional responsibilities that would likely need addressing are social engagement, approving messages, security issues, confidentiality problems, customer service, and teaching staff.
3. Potential Legal Risks
To avoid any legal mistakes, ensure that your social media policy has clearly set guidelines for taking care of any potential problem, conduct research, and seek legal advice. A legal risks section ought to cover, at the least:
- How to credit sources
- Explain how to credit sources if using content from outside source within a social media post
- Confidentiality and disclosure guidelines
- What exactly is private and not to be shared, such an upcoming announcement of an expansion
- Employee disclaimers
- Require employees to include a disclaimer when posting publicly on content related to your company that says they are an employee
- Common wording is “views expressed are mine and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer”
- Some companies also suggest employees include this disclaimer on their personal social media profiles on networks such as Twitter
4. Security Risks
As social media security risks are a reality, businesses must take steps to protect their online profiles from phishing attacks and malicious malware. A productive way to do so is via social media policies. These policies help employees better understand the security threats that abound in today’s online world, as well as what steps to take to avoid them, and how to respond if this kind of risk happens. In your policy, provide steps for creating stronger passwords, avoiding phishing scams and other threats, and explain best practices for responding to a security breach or threat.
Come the end of the day, each employee must take responsibility for what they publish on the Internet. Regularly tell those in your company to be cautious and use common sense when it comes to what they post on behalf of the business or their personal social networks.
6. Professional Use and Encouraging Personal Use of Social Media
Good corporate social media policies outline, (1) what successfully conversations about the business message by employees looks like, and (2) what is allowable and what is not.
As your employees are likely already on at least one social media platform, they are likely already conversing about your company. Therefore, it makes sense to provide them with clear guidelines for these networks that help to build your brand reputation and keep it from being soiled with an inappropriate comment or post. Giving employees input in social media activities for your business is beneficial as they have valuable perspectives about the company that they can share with existing and potential customers. Tap into the quality resource called “your employees.”
When Crafting a Policy, Be Sure To:
- Jog employees’ memories about the employee handbook, encouraging them to familiarize themselves with the employee agreement and policies
- Explain that the policy applies to social networking websites, blogs, and wikis for personal and professional use, as well as multi-media
- Online postings must not divulge any confidential or proprietary information about the company or about a third party that has confided details in the company
- Any time an employee comments on any part of the company’s activities, they must clearly say they are an employee and include a disclaimer
- An example of the disclaimer is “the views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of [insert company name]”
- Online postings ought to be free of business logos and trademarks unless previously given permission for their inclusion
- These postings must also follow applicable laws, including copyright, monetary disclosure, privacy, and fair use
- Employees ought not to present themselves as speaking on behalf of the company, neither by expressly saying they are doing so or implying it
- Employees should gain approval from the business before posting to corporate social media accounts, such as Facebook or the blog, regarding the business and its industry
- It is within the right of the business to request specific subjects be avoided and remove certain posts or comments deemed inappropriate
How to Implement a Social Media Policy
Regarding how to write the document, the best approach is to begin by stating the policy clearly and then following it with bullet points of the primary attributes. After you’ve finalized the policy, the next step is to tell your employees a change to the employee agreement has occurred and explain where they can find the policy, such as a link to the electronic form. Explaining about the document to your workers will help keep them from making mistakes.
To create a good social media policy, seek employee participation. A team method will make for a more comprehensive policy and encourage employees to be advocates for it. As social media is always changing, keep the policy relatively general, rather than making it too specific. Also, avoid making it a policy full of what not to do; instead, inspire employees in their use of social media and as brand ambassadors.
Corporate Social Media Policy Examples
Several social media policies from the public and private arenas can be useful resources for creating your own. Examples are Adidas, Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard, GAP, The Los Angeles Times, Oracle, Ford, Walmart, AP, Reuters, Greteman Group, and Shift Communications, as well as health care firms, higher education institutions, and government bodies.
Adidas, one of the leaders in sports apparel, has a two-page document on social media guidelines that state clearly the main points, using conversational language. This globally recognized brand has offices and employees worldwide. Its social media guide is encouraging but does not mince words regarding following the rules:
- Employees can associate themselves with the business when posting but they must clearly present their online postings as personal and only for their own. Any results that the employee-driven content causes are not the company’s responsibility.
- Content about sensitive business information, especially in-house at Adidas, should not be shared to the outside online networks. Revealing the organization’s design plans, legal activities, and inner operations are banned.
- When employees post online, they must abide by copyright and reference legal guidelines
For Best Buy, the largest US multinational consumer electronics corporation, there is a one-page document detailing social media policy. Most of it is in bullet-point form, and the wording is clear and exact. Its customer service employees rely a lot on the document, and Best Buy is known for its excellent treatment of customers via Twelpforce. It includes wording about how to respond to privacy issues that can come from social media usage.
The corporation requires its employees state their affiliation with the company; this disclaimer frees the business from intellectual investment regarding the post. Anti-racial, anti-sexual, and anti-ethnic content, as well as religious slurs and inappropriate content regarding physical disabilities, are all banned. Employees cannot disclose any information about legal, financial, or operational activities, as well as anything about customers and clients.
On Twitter, employees cannot share logos or other items relating to Best Buy. The business requires employees present themselves and their tweets and posts as their own, rather than being connected to Best Buy. If a malicious employee then goes over the line, then Best Buy won’t face as bad a hit.
As one of the biggest IT companies globally, HP or Hewlett-Packard has an innovative blogging policy. They allow employees to post on a blog that is within their business website. The corporation encourages genuine conversation with readers. HP has the right to edit or alter any misleading or wrong content within the blog posts, as well as having the right to delete blog posts that don’t meet the code of conduct. Hewlett-Packard respects, values and supports its bloggers’ intellectual property rights.
Amongst the most easily recognized brands is GAP, a company that realizes it requires a social media policy for its employees in the work environment. GAP distributed brochures to its employees at a recent conference that highlighted guiding principles and appropriateness when using social media. The writing style on these brochures was to-the-point and conversational.
GAP’s social media policy includes:
- Tread carefully with topics that can cause an emotional firestorm, such as politics, and respect others’ viewpoints
- Your job is priority, except the Social Media Manager, so avoid letting social media take first place over your work performance
- If you make a mistake, fix it right away and let the social media team know if it’s a big one
- Avoid talking about sales figures, strategies, projections, monetary details, legal problems, or future marketing campaigns. Don’t divulge personal things about clients or employees either. Confidential info is off-limits, as are non-public details. Also, if a customer posts a negative or offensive comment, do not reply to it as you won’t come out on top.
The Los Angeles Times
Regarding social media’s role in journalism, The Los Angeles Times sees its importance. Thus, they support their journalists in participating in social projects provided that they follow the paper’s social media guide. This document states that journalists must adhere to the values of honor, objectivity, professionalism, and confidentiality when posting on the Internet.
The genuine nature of the employee posts is imperative; before posting or tweeting details questionable material online, always check with credible sources. Also, The Los Angeles Times policy states that employees must clearly state their relationship with the paper as they would offline.
Social Media Policy Examples for Higher Education
The social media guide at California State University, East Bay begins with a brief overview of the basic principles and then goes into more specific definitions of guidelines. Tufts University has different policies for personal and private social media use by employees, with the latter being quite in-depth on best practices, employee responsibility, and more.
If you are crafting your company’s social media policy and want to make sure you prevent any legal loopholes, as well as following any relevant legal guidelines, an attorney can be a good resource. Connect with reputable lawyers easily when you post your legal need in our UpCounsel Marketplace. Doing so is a fast, easy process that can lead to sound legal advice that gives you peace of mind that your social media policy is clear and comprehensive. The attorneys in our Marketplace are graduates from leading legal institutions and have over a decade of experience each, on average, in the law industry.