Statistics show that 98% of your employees use social media, and 77% do so while at work. Though employees use social media to complete work-related tasks (about 27%), most log on to take breaks, communicate with friends and family, or fortify professional relationships. Furthermore, about half will at some point mention something about your company online. Because social media is prevalent in the workplace, it’s advisable to create a social media policy.
These simple guidelines for creating your policy will help you spell out exactly how employees can and cannot conduct themselves online. This way, you can ensure employees understand what is acceptable in the office and at home.
What Is a Company Social Media Policy?
It’s a code of conduct that helps employees understand what is and isn’t acceptable to do and share online. It should be included in your employee handbook and your company intranet, if you have one.
Social media policies should include information such as:
- When employees are allowed to use social media at work, if at all.
- How to talk about company products and services.
- Who can respond to company-related comments and in what way.
- Which information can be shared publicly, and which is considered private.
- How to respect and protect coworker privacy.
- How to comply with the law (such as copyright or defamation) and ensure company security.
- What happens when employees fail to comply.
Why Is Having a Policy Important?
What employees say and do online can reflect negatively on your business — not to mention that posts can circulate the web indefinitely. Your company’s social media policy can help your organization:
- Encourage employees to remain productive.
- Keep the brand message and image consistent.
- Protect your company’s reputation and employer branding.
- Educate employees on the risks of social media use.
- Protect employees from cyberbullying and/or defamation.
- Avoid legal liabilities, such as copyright, customer privacy, and social media acquisition.
- Inform employees about what to expect should they break the rules.
How to Create a Policy for Your Business
Your social media policy should center around your shared company values and include four main sections:
- The rules and regulations of usage for both personal and company accounts.
- Clear procedures for reaching out and responding to customer comments and reviews online.
- How you will hold employees accountable such as which activities will be met with disciplinary action, and which could result in termination.
- How employees can boost your company’s reputation online.
The goal of your policy is to be transparent about what repercussions employees can expect when they break the rules. This way it is clear what can happen if they don’t post responsibly on social media.
1. The rules and regulations of usage for both personal and company accounts
Employees often forget that there is a dwindling separation between their professional and personal lives. How your employees choose to engage online can have negative consequences in their professional lives, and vice versa. This is why the biggest chunk of your policy should outline what is acceptable behavior on social media and what is not.
What to consider including in your social media policy:
- Whether the use of personal social media accounts while on the job is prohibited or limited in any way.
- The need to distinguish personal opinions from those of the company — especially controversial or discriminatory ones. Help your employees exercise caution here.
- How to protect confidential or proprietary corporate information and the brand reputation.
- Respect for the privacy rights of both the company and coworkers — respecting diversity and inclusion and discouraging cyberbullying.
- The proper way to handle at-work confrontations — not publicly but in the office and a private matter.
- Compliance with applicable laws (e.g., copyright laws) and company standards in general.
- What is considered sensitive information, such as store closing procedures and confidential security measures.
- How to properly talk about the company and its products.
The goal here is not to control your employee’s social media usage, but to be transparent about what employees can do to avoid harming your company and their career trajectory. For example, if your business is in the food service industry, perhaps you don’t want employees posting information about your recipes. You also don’t want matters that should be dealt with privately revealed publicly, such as behind-the-scenes videos that reveal anything from mistakes to employee disagreements.
The rules might seem obvious to you as you write them, but you want to make sure your employees understand what is and isn’t okay about how they represent themselves and your business. This way, you are taking preventive measures while giving employees a fair warning and covering your tracks should you need to take disciplinary action.
2. Clear procedures for reaching out and responding to customer comments and reviews online
Some employees might take it into their own hands to respond to customers when they come across comments or reviews for your business online. For this reason, it’s advisable to specify:
- Who in the company can reply to customers online and in what way.
- Who is responsible for different social media tasks, such as posting on company accounts.
- Whom employees can reach out to and how if they have questions about the policy.
For example, if someone makes a terrible comment about your company online, is anyone allowed to respond? Or do employees need to flag it and bring it to someone’s attention to be handled in a specific way? Being upfront about the procedure will help eliminate confusion and get the matter into the right hands.
3. What will be done to hold employees accountable, such as reprimands or termination
Lastly, include how violations of your social media policy will be handled. Will minor infractions result in disciplinary action? If so, be specific about what kind. Also, state which type of social media use is considered egregious and can result in termination.
Just be sure to be consistent with enforcing your policy so certain employees aren’t afforded more leeway than others.
4. How employees can boost your company’s reputation online
While you might find yourself focusing mostly on what isn’t acceptable, don’t forget to include what your employees can post (and how). For example, something as simple as “Be kind, keep it light, and have fun!” can demonstrate what your employees can do to maintain a good reputation.
As a rule, anything that is a positive thought or experience can be shared publicly, while any negative issues or conflicts should be handled privately. When in doubt, don’t post it!
Continue Boosting Your Company’s Online Reputation
Now that you know what you should include in your social media policy, it’s time to get started. Done right, your document will be a reliable tool to build customer loyalty and employee advocacy, which can be a powerful vehicle for growing your business. Find your next great employee advocate with a free job posting at Monster.