These days, it’s more important than ever for organizations to have a workplace social media policy. If your organization doesn’t have one in place, you’re taking a big risk because the longer you wait, the higher the chances it’s already too late.
Given how practically everyone (including your grandmother) is on social media nowadays, a workplace social media policy is something you can’t ignore if you want to protect your brand’s reputation online.
In this article, we’ll go over why your organization needs a social media policy, the benefits of having one, and 10 essential guidelines for building your very own. Plus, we’ll include some bonus time-saving tips that are proven to make social media management a bit easier.
So, let’s get started!
What is a social media policy?
Social media has revolutionized how people interact online with friends, colleagues, and family. It has also allowed people to interact with brands, celebrities, and people all around the world like never before.
A workplace social media policy is a proactive approach to prevent social media slip-ups of employees by setting comprehensive guidelines around their online interactions.
Many organizations have social media policies that not only cover posting on behalf of the company but also how employees should behave on their personal accounts – especially if it mentions or pertains to the business.
Why you need a social media policy
We live in an age where people are constantly online, and the boundaries between our “personal” and “professional” lives are more blurred than ever. For organizations, social media has turned every single interaction– whether it’s a tweet, follow, comment, like, subscription, or share– into a reflection and extension of your brand.
While there are some risks involved with leveraging social media (it seems like every day there’s a new corporate blunder or influencer mistake that goes viral), there’s also so much potential to expand your reach and brand on these platforms. Everything your organization posts about and does online is a prospective branding opportunity to spread the word about all the great work your organization has been doing.
Having a solid social media policy for employees is one of the best ways to mitigate and avoid the reputational risks associated with social media. So if your organization is on social media, you’ll need a policy for employees to cover everything from what to say, how to say it, and what they can (and can’t) do.
Benefits of a workplace social media policy
Here are some of the biggest benefits and reasons to have a workplace social media policy in place.
Get everyone on the same page
A social media policy for employees reduces confusion and the chance of misunderstandings, while also ensuring that everyone is aligned and knows how to behave accordingly on social media platforms.
This is indispensable, especially if there are multiple people handling your corporate social media accounts. It will also help fast-track the onboarding process for new employees because the policy will clearly state the organization’s expectations for employees’ online behavior from the get-go.
Prevent embarrassing mistakes
“The internet never forgets” is a popular saying for a reason. You might think you’re safe since you can always delete a post, but that’s not true because screenshots and archive websites like the Wayback Machine exist.
For anything posted online, you should assume that it will be there forever, for anyone to find as long as they’re dedicated enough. That’s why you can have situations where a celebrity gets canceled by a long-forgotten tweet that resurfaces from decades ago.
So instead of doing damage control after a mistake has been made, you’re better off preventing that mistake from happening in the first place.
Your social media policy will help you establish consistent brand guidelines like logos, colors, and tone of voice for messaging that helps to build trust while also developing brand recognition, especially when executed well.
You want your customers to know they’re dealing with the same brand, no matter where they are in the marketing funnel or what platform, device, or app they’re using. Ideally, your brand consistency will extend beyond social media to every single brand touchpoint – whether it’s your website, newsletter, customer service replies, or brand packaging – everything should be consistent across the board. Implementing a social media policy will help ensure the content you’re posting sticks to these brand guidelines to make your brand memorable to your target audience.
Now that we’ve gone over the main benefits of having a workplace social media policy, here are 10 things to keep in mind when creating your own.
10 things to consider for your social media policy
While every social media policy should be tailored to the particular needs of the organization, there are some best practices to keep in mind when creating your own.
Here’s a breakdown of things to consider when creating your organization’s social media policy for employees:
1. List of platforms
One of the first things you should include in your social media policy is a full list of all the social media platforms your company uses. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and LinkedIn are standard as they’re some of the biggest and most entrenched platforms out there.
But those aren’t the only ones! Many companies have Reddit, Discord, Twitch, Snapchat, Yelp, and Pinterest accounts as well. In addition to these platforms, your social media policy should also include any blogs, forums, video-sharing sites, and any other networking sites your organization uses regularly.
Your Google Business Profile is another platform that’s easy to forget about but it should be included in your social media policy. Even if your organization doesn’t actively use it, it’s still one of the first things people will see when Googling your company or business, so you definitely want to keep an eye on it (particularly the reviews) and respond promptly to feedback and reviews when appropriate.
2. Define roles and responsibilities
Your social media policy should include the departments, people, and roles that have access to the corporate social media accounts, along with their responsibilities. Smaller companies often have a single person in charge of social media, but larger companies often involve employees across different departments, as well as external marketing agencies, so it’s important to clearly define who does what.
You should also include who has final approval on posts and how to contact them.
3. Developing your tone of voice
This is where you define your brand’s tone of voice and personality. Is it serious and academic? Or more conversational and playful? This is where all of those questions get answered.
This decision will extend to the kinds of content you post and share. If you’re a more serious brand, that might mean you only reshare posts from reputable institutions like the New York Times and Harvard Business Review. If your brand is more playful, you might share memes or funny videos on your account.
The tone of voice will also govern how you respond to customers and even the comments you make on social media. Regardless of the direction you choose, the most important thing to keep in mind is brand consistency.
4. Protecting confidential information
Your social media policy should clearly articulate the expectations around handling sensitive and confidential information to avoid it accidentally being shared online. This includes employee personal information, trade secrets, proprietary information, client lists, business plans, competitive strategies, and anything else that isn’t publicly available.
If your company is publicly traded, this section of your social media policy will likely be even stricter to ensure legal compliance.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you’re featuring any customer testimonials on social media or the website, make sure to get the customer’s permission before posting pictures or videos of them online.
5. Employees’ use of personal social media
Some organizations have social media policies that go beyond corporate accounts, outlining the do’s and don’ts for employees regarding their personal social media use during work hours.
While employees are free to post whenever and whatever they want on their own profiles, your organization should have guidelines when it comes to discussing work-related activities and other things that could impact the business.
Here are a few things to consider when crafting your policies on personal social media use:
A) How much can employees use personal social media at work?
Some places leave it up to their employee’s discretion as long as it doesn’t affect their performance. Other places that are more customer-service-oriented may have a ban on personal social media use (and sometimes even using their phone in general) while employees are on the clock.
It’s a bit of a balancing act because you still want to give employees freedom but you don’t want social media to become a distraction, either. But if an employee’s social media use begins to impact their job performance, there should be a clear process in place when it comes to addressing the issue and any disciplinary actions.
B) What can employees share about the company?
Your employees are ambassadors for your organization, and what they do on their personal social media accounts can and does impact the business. This is especially true for professional social media platforms like LinkedIn, which make it easy to see someone’s relationship with their employers.
It’s important to define how your employees can talk about the organization because there are things that can put your organization in a bad position if shared online. For example, you probably want to avoid your employees venting any frustrations about the company in public, especially if they mention the organization in the post.
A solid social media policy would detail what’s acceptable for employees to share about the company on both their work and personal accounts.
C) Can employees use company equipment for personal use?
The general recommendation is to keep the work and personal accounts as separate as possible. That’s why many companies provide a work phone, work laptop, and even separate social media accounts for managing company pages (such as a fake profile or administrator account) so that employees aren’t linking their personal accounts to the company’s account.
If your employees are allowed to use company equipment for personal use, the social media policy should outline what is acceptable. For example, you might not want employees using their work laptops for Netflix, but it might be ok for employees to occasionally access their personal emails on their work laptops.
It’s also worthwhile to mention that your company may monitor activity on work devices and that employees should behave accordingly.
D) Can employees access corporate social media accounts on their personal devices?
It’s not uncommon for employees to access their work emails and company social media accounts on their personal devices for a multitude of reasons, including it being faster, more convenient, or simply because their employer doesn’t provide company equipment.
But while it may be relatively common, that doesn’t mean it’s something you want your employees to do, so your social media policy should clearly spell it out.
6. Legal disclaimers and copyright law
You may have to include legal disclaimers in your social media posts, especially if you’re in a more regulated industry such as finance, medicine, or law. The ones that say something along the lines of, “This isn’t financial/medical/legal advice” while encouraging you to speak with a qualified professional.
Your social media policy should also have guidelines to ensure everything you post complies with local laws, and if you’re doing a paid product placement, make sure you’re very clear that it’s an ad or you could be facing a hefty fine.
It’s also good due diligence to get your legal team to review your social media policy just to ensure it’s valid and enforceable.
The bigger your brand, the more diligent you need to be regarding copyright law and intellectual property. This includes images, audio, and video.
Many organizations prefer to avoid the hassle of getting a license to use copyrighted material and instead opt for sites with stock images, video, and audio. If your organization uses these sites, make sure to include the ones you use.
Some sites, like Shutterstock, require paid memberships, while others like Unsplash are completely free. Make sure to include this info as well, especially if you’re only allowed a set number of downloads per month for any paid sites.
7. Consequences for policy violations
Once you’ve laid out your social media policy for employees, you’ll have to go over the consequences of violating the policy. Some companies have a three-strike rule, while others are more situational.
You should also mention who’s in charge of enforcing these policies, and the steps needed to rectify any mistakes or blunders.
Sometimes it’s as easy as owning up to it, saying sorry, and fixing the mistake, while repeated violations may be worthy of a write-up. But the most serious infractions can result in termination and even legal action.
Whatever your policy is, the most important things to remember are to be as clear as possible and to apply the rules equally across your organization.
8. Emergency response plan
As much as we’d like, social media isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes you’ll get negative comments and reviews. Other times, it might be negative press in the local news.
Whatever it is, you should have a response plan in place just in case things go wrong on social media. It should include guidelines not only on how to respond, but who within the company is responsible for responding, and it often will depend on the context.
For example, your customer service team might be responsible for handling negative reviews and reaching out to customers directly. If it’s press-related, perhaps you have a go-to representative or spokesperson.
Your response time is key in scenarios like this, and the faster you can address the issue, the better off the organization will be. These plans will allow for a rapid response so you can immediately go into damage control mode, instead of wasting precious time scrambling to find whose responsibility it is to handle it.
Having a plan will also give you peace of mind while reducing panic, confusion, and stress if things really hit the fan.
9. Removing access for former employees
When someone leaves the company, there should be procedures in place to protect the company and its sensitive information. Someone should be in charge of deactivating the employee’s account and changing any account passwords they had access to.
Even if the employee leaves on good terms, you should still change all the passwords they had access to immediately to prevent the possibility of a hack.
10. Logging out
Another thing to consider in your policy is logging out at the end of the day. It can be a huge security risk to be constantly logged in, especially if your work equipment isn’t password-protected. A policy for logging out will also help protect your company accounts if a device gets lost or stolen.
Another reason to require employees to log out at the end of the day is that it’s way too easy to stay constantly online. So not only for security reasons but also for your employee’s well-being, you should encourage them to log out of everything at the end of the day and to turn their notifications off because everyone deserves a break.
If your company’s on social media, you need a social media policy for employees. These days, it’s a necessary part of business and marketing.
Your social media policy will go a long way in helping you maintain brand consistency, along with getting everyone on the same page and preventing mistakes that could have a negative impact on your brand.
We hope this article gave you an idea of what to include in your workplace social media policy and that you’re feeling inspired to create your own.
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Hetler, A. 9 essential social media guidelines for employees. Tech.Target. https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/feature/9-essential-social-media-guidelines-for-employees.
Workplace Social Media Policy. Indeed. https://www.indeed.com/hire/c/info/social-media-policy.