Betting on common sense is not enough when it comes to ensuring employees know what an appropriate online code of conduct is, especially when it comes to protecting your brand’s reputation or increasing employee engagement and advocacy.
That’s why all companies need a thoughtful social media policy in place that details how an organization and its employees ought to conduct themselves in the virtual world, which, as we know, has a direct impact on the real one.
For starters, a social media policy outlines what constitutes appropriate online conduct – and not just Facebook and Twitter, but all social networking spaces, video-sharing platforms, wikis, blogs, forums, chat tools, etc. It should also be as clear and detailed as possible to foster understanding, avoid legal issues and defend against security risks.
Next, a social media policy highlights the ways employees can get involved with the brand beyond the normal work environment. This might include sharing company updates or positive work experiences via their preferred social networks. Their efforts can help develop or further your brand’s credibility with the clients and customers who see their content – and potentially grab the attention of prospective customers, clients and employees as well.
Given that you want to find a good balance between rules and recommendations and encouraging employees to be themselves, there’s no doubt that creating a social media policy can be tricky. That’s why we put together 10 considerations to keep in mind when crafting a social media policy for your organization.
1. Encourage employees to be themselves
Every policy needs to have empathy and understanding that each employee is an individual who provides a unique value to the brand. Employees will be more responsive to the policy if they know it is not meant to restrict who they are, but rather to help bring out the best in them.
2. Remind employees they’re a walking, talking image of the brand
Whether they’re on the clock or not, it’s important to note that what employees do at work or outside of it could get documented and potentially reach thousands. Not only might they share something inappropriate, but they might be the subject featured in someone else’s inappropriate content. Such instances could also give rise to disciplinary action. Though blunt, Best Buy’s policy provides clear direction on what could happen if an employee violates their social media policy. Being clear is being kind, and it helps combat confusion.
3. Remind everyone that their content always has the potential to reach thousands
Employees often forget how one tweet, private message or post in a private group can become viral in the click of a share button. It’s important for your social media policy to remind them of this. Regardless of what settings they have in place or what “private” channels they use, their actions, words and images have the chance to quickly become public.
4. Note that the employee will be associated with the brands they engage with
Not only will your employee activity be connected with your brand, but also any other groups, associations, volunteer organizations, etc., they support or serve. This is your opportunity to remind employees to be thoughtful, honest and transparent about their connections to the brand and those outside of it.
5. Remind people to be kind and lean into your organization’s values
It’s simple, but true: If the communication isn’t kind, it’s not worth posting. In their policy, General Motors does a great job explaining how their employees can be honest, clear, careful, respectful, aware and responsible. If your organization has core values, it’s a good idea to weave them into your social media policy – as it breathes life into those values and provides a specific way they can live them out on social.
6. Point out that everyone is a brand ambassador
Let employees know they have permission to use social to support industry ethics, business goals and objectives – and let them know that they are encouraged to use social media to support their connection to the brand, its partners and its goals. This can include proper protocol for responding or not responding and immediately alerting the right people to respond when various types of comments arise. Consider Coca-Cola company’s online social media principles, which direct employees to subject matter experts when it comes to responding to negative social content.
7. Include a contact list
Every social media policy should include email addresses for HR, subject matter experts, social media monitoring teams and other marketing leaders who need to be notified of policy breaches or to answer clarifying questions about the policy.
8. Prohibit uploading, publishing or otherwise sharing confidential, copyrighted or trademarked materials or information without permission
This language should already be woven into the confidentiality section of your employee handbook, but it’s so important that it deserves another mention inside the social media policy.
9. Include links to your brand’s social accounts to encourage social engagement
If you want employees to engage, make it easy for them. A simple start is to include brand social media page URLs that are most relevant for employees within the policy. If you would like to go the extra mile, you could include screenshots of engagement by notable employees who live and breathe the brand in online communities as inspiration.
10. Highlight examples of inspirational employee social conduct
If you’re just getting your social media policy up to snuff, it’s worth grabbing screenshots of employee conduct at other reputable organizations as inspiration. Equally as important would be to include examples of poor conduct – though we suggest blurring out any names or personal identification elements to protect the identity of those profiles and avoid shaming.
Include your social media policy in your employee handbook and ensure all employees have read and understood it by having them sign it
Once you have a social media policy in place, it’s essential to have, hold and treat it like a living document. New platforms and digital landscapes develop all the time, which could shift how the brand conducts itself over time.
If you would like a helping hand to craft a social media policy specific to your organization, send Ted Jun a note at email@example.com