What to Include in a Social Media Policy for Employees
These days, social media is an integral part of our daily personal and professional lives. As a business owner or manager, you are likely promoting new products on your company's Facebook page; engaging with your fans on Twitter; and communicating with your future employees on LinkedIn. Regardless of the size of business, companies and organizations benefit from social media. In fact, it is safe to say the way we communicate with stakeholders has completely changed in the past decade.
At the same time, social media has brought a new set of risks and challenges to businesses such as: 1) The ease in which a company’s reputation can be damaged; 2) The risk of leaking confidential company and client information; and 3) The increased risk of liability and lawsuits. For example, a few years ago the picture of a fast food employee licking taco shells in the kitchen of a major Mexican restaurant went viral on the internet and caused severe widespread damage to the company’s reputation. Just one inappropriate incident on social media, even if it is not the company’s fault, can destroy brand image and customer loyalty.
Today, I am going to share an ultimate guide to build an employee social media policy that can help protect your company from a social media crisis. Having an effective social media policy in place can dramatically lower the risk of a public relations crisis and help your employees feel more confident in using social media to communicate with your company or brand.
Major Social Media risks for companies and how to avoid them
Let's talk about the major risks your company may face when it comes to using social media. It is essential to control the content of your "official account" when communicating with the stakeholders of your company. At the same time, it is important to have guidelines regulating the use of social media by employees as it pertains to matters directly impacting the company. Without a well-written social media policy, your company might be facing an embarrassing public relations nightmare or even a lawsuit.
1) Flaming caused by inappropriate or off-brand posts
Even though your employees post about your company from their personal social media account, remember people still associate the post with your company, especially if the post is inappropriate or off-brand. Sometimes employees make jokes, have controversial opinions, and take reckless actions (such as the Mexican restaurant crisis mentioned above).
It is important to educate employees regarding what is considered off-limits, and the potential damage that might be caused by inappropriate posts. Also, it may be necessary for employees who post company related comments to state their comments are personal and do not reflect the opinion of the company.
2) Confidential Information Leaks
Most companies possess confidential and private information of some sort. Inappropriate disclosure of such information can lead to civil and potentially criminal liability, including substantial fines and other consequences. Be sure to explain to your employees what type of information is considered confidential and private, as well as, their duties to protect such information. For example, you may have a policy prohibiting workers from taking pictures in the workplace to protect accidentally releasing confidential information.
3) Account hacking
A fundamental aspect to your social media policy should be obtaining and maintaining a secure IT environment. Getting your company's account hacked is one of the scariest nightmares social media managers face. Account attack is not only done by random hackers but by disgruntled employees or former employees. So, make sure secure passwords are used and updated frequently. Also, never use a universal password on your workplace computers.
What to cover in a social media policy
Now that you have some insight into the major risks of the use of social media by employees, the next step is to create your social media policy and procedures. Policies are not one-size-fits-all and must be crafted to fit your company size, industry and culture. Also, we highly recommend you include your social media policy into your employee handbook.
Here are the topics to be covered in a social media policy:
- Identify and define social media. Specify which sites are included.
- Address when the policy applies. Specify when social media communication outside of the workplace may fall under the social media policy. Specify whether the policy applies to any posting where the poster is identified as a company employee or whether it applies any time the company is mentioned.
- Identify the type of information that is considered proprietary and confidential company information and discuss the importance of non-disclosure.
- Inform employees that they are responsible for what they post on any social media forum. Employees should be notified that even though they have the opportunity to express themselves in social media, they are still required to use common sense and judgment.
- Identify topics not to be discussed, such as: negative statements about a competitor or a client, negative statements about other employees, revealing confidential or proprietary information.
- If employee posts include the name of the employer, employees should specify that their comments are their own opinion and not the opinion of the employer.
- Relate social media policy to the other policies of the organization. Specify that standards of conduct apply whether the conduct is online or in-person.
- Provide a contact person to whom questions about acceptable content can be directed.
- Provide and maintain a list of "FAQs" with examples as to what content is encouraged.
- Address the consequences for violation of the policy.
If you still have questions about creating an effective social media policy, remember Back Office Remedies can create a customized employee handbook for your company that can include a social media policy tailored to your specific needs. For more information, feel free to contact us or call at 702-727-1219.
Updated on June 30, 2017 10:09