What is a Social Media Policy?
Organisations have social media policies in place in order to make sure their employees understand the dos and don'ts of using social media. If there is a social media policy in place, you should ensure that you've read it.
Ever since the internet and email were introduced as business tools, policies for safe online use have grown in importance. However, the policies that companies develop for internet and email use aren't the perfect fit for social media – it is a whole other kettle of fish.
By 'policy' I mean that the company has a code of conduct or a shared list of rules and information in a place that provides guidance to use social media safely. Creating a social media policy allows companies to set expectations for appropriate behaviour online to prevent any legal problems or public embarrassment that can come as a result of employees using social media badly. A good policy, that is implemented successfully, helps safeguard your brand's reputation and encourages employees to responsibly share the company's message.
People use social media for both work and pleasure. Just like you can use social media to keep in touch with family and friends, businesses can use it to build a strong relationship with their customers, as well as a healthy workforce through creating an employee/employer online community. The fact social media is used so much in business means that having a stable policy in place reduces the chances of problems occurring that could not only impact the individual but the whole company.
Unfortunately, it's very common for a company to have to apologize for an employee's thoughtless tweet. And it could have been avoided if that employee had been given proper guidance from day one.
It is never too late to set up a social media policy, even if you're already established online – a good policy can help you grow in a secure way.
What is the Point of a Policy?
1. Defends against legal trouble and security risks
Social media is confusing when it comes to copyright and privacy. Strong social media policies can help safeguard your organisation against potential legal troubles and security risks. They outline potential threats and include instructions on how to avoid them.
2. Empowers employees to share company messaging
With clear guidelines, employees can understand how to use social media to promote the company they work for – social media can be an employee advocacy tool if they have a policy to follow to make sure everything that employees share is accurate and on-brand.
3. Creates consistency across channels
If you have public-facing employees, you also need to make sure they are aware of any brand standards to maintain a consistent brand 'voice'. For example, you may want your employees' Twitter handles to include a reference to your brand, making it easier for customers to identify the company and engage with it. This area of a social media policy should also include proper use of images, video, and any other forms of media.
What Should a Good Policy Include?
Some social media policies are ten pages long with very specific rules and clauses, some keep it simple and tell their employees to use their judgement and be sensible. The point is that the policy is straightforward and easy to follow. Although social media policies vary widely by sector, some universal pointers that policies could include are:
Rules for what types of information can be shared. Almost all social media policies include restrictions on disclosing confidential or proprietary business secrets or anything that could influence stock prices.
Make sure employees use different passwords for their social media accounts and their enterprise accounts, it sounds simple but repetitive passwords can be an easy target for data breaches.
Define who is responsible for specific social media governance tasks. This can be set out clearly by making a table that lists the social media responsibilities such as brand guidelines, and then the person that is responsible for governing that area. 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
There are lots of risks involved with social media when it comes to legal issues and security. A good policy should provide clear guidelines to make employees aware of these threats, how to avoid them, and what to do if problems occur.
Implementing a Policy
- Get employees involved: By seeking input from the people the policy actually effects, you are covering all bases and ensuring that people are aware of a program that is relevant to them.
- Keep it broad: Don't get bogged down with making the policy specific to each individual social media platform, provide guidelines that are as universal as possible.
- Stay positive: Encourage your employees to be active on social media because although there are risks, the rewards are high if used well. Instead of discouraging use, giving employees the tools they need to use social media safely and effectively.
We all know social media moves fast, policies that are too rigid can be ineffective in a changing situation. Think of your social media policy as a set of guardrails, rather than continuous train tracks. It should be considered a living document, constantly changing to remain relevant and effective.