How to Create and Integrate a Social Media Policy (and Why You Need One)
You’ve seen the articles. An employee is fired for badmouthing their employer on Twitter or someone got the company in hot water by disclosing a customer’s private information.
Social media can be a great tool for growing your brand and reaching new customers. If not used properly, however, it can get your company and your employees in hot water.
To help reduce the risk of any negative impact from social media, it’s important to have a social media policy in place for your team to follow. This guide should include the following:
- Admins for your company pages – Who can access your company profiles and post on them
- Social media during work hours – When it IS and when it IS NOT ok for employees to be using social media in the workplace
- Code of conduct – What is appropriate for employees to say on social media as it relates to the company and things that might impact the company (without infringing on the First Amendment)
- Disclaimers – You can’t really prevent your employees from stating their opinions on personal accounts, but you can point out that it’s not acceptable for them to speak on your behalf and they need to add a disclaimer
- Security – Passwords and other security regulations to prevent your accounts from being hacked
- Importance of confidentiality – You may think it goes without saying that it’s not ok to share private information about your company, your team, or your customers, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to stress this point
- Details about consequences – Be very clear about what will happen next if any part of the policy is broken (cover yourself in case legal issues arise later)
- Internal contact – There will be questions, so be sure to list the contact info for the team member(s) best suited to answer those questions (HR, marketing, legal, etc.)
Ensuring Buy-in to Your Social Media Policy
Once you have the policy created, and your leadership team has approved (bring in legal to sign off as well), it’s important to disseminate the information to your employees. And don’t just send out one email and hope everyone on your team gets it.
You should have a distinct communication plan in place to ensure everyone understands the importance of adhering to the social media guidelines you’ve set forth.
Place the policy somewhere that’s heavily trafficked by your team. For example, the employee portal. When you send out an email campaign to promote the new policy, not only will you want to attach the document as a PDF, but you’ll also want to link to it and explain where it lives (on the portal or wherever that may be).
Hold training sessions and make them mandatory. This way, you can highlight the most important points and get everyone in a room where you have their undivided attention. If you rely only on the email or the employee portal, you’ll miss a lot of people. Even those who have every intention of reading the policy may save and flag the email, but then the work piles up and they never get around to reading it.
Keep track of who attended the meetings. For those who were unable to attend, follow up individually to ensure they’ve read the document. Doing all of this seems like a lot, but it’s important that you take these steps to cover your bases in case something would come up.
Taking Legal Action
Whether it’s harassment, defamation, privacy issues, or any number of other negative actions taken via social media, you need to consult legal counsel before taking action. Having your social media policy in place with guidelines specifically spelled out will truly help your case if any issue that arises goes to the next level.
Be sure to connect with an experienced employment law attorney to ensure you’re taking all the right steps. Otherwise, you could end up failing in your efforts to stop the negative actions being perpetrated against you, an employee or a customer…or you could make it harder on yourself if you find yourself as the defendant.
Having a social media policy in place is so important in making sure your employees understand where the lines are drawn. Once your brand’s reputation takes a hit, it’s often quite challenging to recover. It’s not always as easy as saying “we’re sorry” and moving on. It can take years to gain back trust or change negative public perception.
Putting the time and effort into creating your social media policy and integrating the guidelines into your company culture can save you from tons of headaches in the long run. So, get your social media, HR, legal and other pros together in a room and start hashing out your policy to position your company to maintain a positive brand image and avoid any negative impact in the future.