Social media is everywhere, and most of your employees are using it—often while they’re at work. If you’re looking to avoid a potential public relations debacle and distractions in the workplace, a company-wide social media policy may be the right step for you.

Your policy can include several points of social media use by your employees, including how to keep accounts secure, who has access to official accounts and guidelines for digital behavior inside and outside of work. Here’s more about how and why to craft one for your business.

How Is a Social Media Policy Helpful?

A social media policy provides employees with clear ground rules for usage. It also keeps your official accounts safer. There are several ways a social media policy can help your business include the following:

  • It can help define and narrow your company’s identity to ensure your brand remains consistent across all official social media channels.
  • It can help you avoid a public relations or legal crisis, such as an employee getting into a company account and sending out an offensive post or inadvertently sharing confidential information on their personal account.
  • It can clarify your employees’ roles and responsibilities as part of the company team.
  • It can encourage your employees to responsibly get on the company branding bandwagon.

Social Media Policy Research

According to the Pew Research Center:

  • 10% fewer employees report taking breaks using social media when their company has a social media policy in place
  • 15% fewer employees report using social media to connect with friends and family during the workday
  • 63% of employees say their employer doesn’t have a policy about how they present themselves on the internet
  • 45% of employers don’t have policies about social media use during the workday

What’s Included in a Social Media Policy?

1. Outline of Employee Access

A social media policy could provide a detailed list of who has access to your company’s official social media platforms and define their specific roles. Limiting the number of people who can log into your platforms helps limit potential misuse, while outlining who is responsible for what decreases the chances of a misunderstanding. Creating your social media policy gives you a perfect opportunity to clarify who’s in charge of social media in your company.

2. Security Protocol

Security is of the highest importance for your social media platforms. Keep lock-tight safety on your accounts and make sure you have an efficient plan for when things go wrong. You need to know who changes the passwords so they can frequently change them—and immediately change them if you suspect you’ve been hacked. Where do you store the passwords? How does the person in charge update other employees when they change passwords? All of these questions could be helpful to answer when drafting your social media policy.

3. Any Legal Restrictions

For everything from copyright to privacy to confidentiality issues, you need to make sure all your employees understand their legal duties and expectations when it comes to social media policy. Employees need to know if there’s certain information they can’t share online without breaching a confidentiality agreement. The same rule applies for any other legal or privacy guidelines your company has in place. A social media policy can help you think through all of the potential digital problems employees could encounter in this regard.

4. A Guide for Maintaining Brand Voice and Identity

Employees can help spread the word of your business through social media, and a social media policy can help boost employee brand engagement in appropriate ways. It can define who speaks for the company on social media, and how. If you want all your employees to engage, you could include pre-written responses to frequently asked questions and guidelines on how to manage online conflict involving the company. If you prefer that only specific employees engage with or speak for your company on social media, include that in your policy.

5. A Guide for Employees During Work Hours

You might want to specify how employees can utilize social media during work hours. Consider the following:

  • Is your staff allowed to access their personal social media during the workday?
  • If so, which types of social media?
  • If you put restrictions in place, how will you enforce them?

If you want a more business-forward office setting, you might consider restricting social media access for all but specific employees. If your office is a bit more casual and you understand that employees may be able to use social media for their jobs or for a quick breather, you might want to allow open access. Any restrictions in place need to come with a clear method of enforcement—you can choose for your staff to sign an agreement and let them monitor their own use or block the sites from their work computers.

6. A Guide for Employees’ Personal Accounts

An employee’s personal account isn’t connected with the company, and you can’t restrict their freedom of speech. However, employees’ digital behaviors are public and still represent your business, so your staff needs to know the boundaries. You can add a guide for your employees on how to act online, even on their personal accounts. Consider identifying actions—such as plagiarizing content, posting offensive remarks, uploading obscene images and engaging in discrimination or other illegal activities—that might force you to take disciplinary action.

How to Implement a Social Media Policy

Meet with Crucial Company Figures

In the beginning stages of crafting your social media policy, you’ll want to organize a meeting—or a series of meetings—with key stakeholders in the company to get input. You could meet with human resources personnel, the communications team, upper and lower management and your business’s legal team. Solicit opinions about what should or shouldn’t be included in the social media policy for your company.

Write It Up

Decide who will craft it, and give that person a deadline. After the draft is finished, plan to meet again to review and finalize your social media policy. Also, decide on a date each year to re-examine the policy. Technology changes rapidly, so in your next yearly review you might find it’s time to phase out the use of one platform and switch to another.

Distribute It

Launch the social media policy for your employees and all your staff to see. You can share it via several methods—introducing it at an all-staff meeting, emailing it and distributing a printed-out version. That way, staffers are more likely to see it and take it seriously. You can even add it to your employee handbook, so new hires are up to date from their first day.

Looking Ahead

In the years to come, social media is only going to increase in impact and influence, and a sound social media policy can have an effect on your company’s bottom line. Plotting out an effective and useful social media policy today can help your prepare for the next phases. Also, employees typically appreciate having clear guidelines on how to behave. A social media policy can help your employees as much as it can help you and your brand image.

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