Employees may consider their private and work lives separate, but social media has virtually erased that dividing line. This is the new reality: No matter how walled off a person’s social accounts may seem to be, at some point, they will be tied to your organization – as long as that person works for you, is considering working for you, or used to work for you.
A good social media policy spells out what is and isn’t appropriate for employees to post about your company. On a positive note, social media offers opportunities to engage not only employees, but also customers, clients and the public in your business. But on the flip side, irresponsible use of social media can be highly damaging to your brand and reputation.
Reasons for a Social Media Policy
Your social media policy should have clear guidelines for employees and protect your company from incidents that could expose you to liability or public embarrassment.
- Give employees direction for communicating online. Clearly outline what content is permissible and what is not.
- Raise awareness of your company. The best social media policies have more “do’s” than “don’ts.” Train employees in ways they can use social platforms to help achieve business goals. Enable your team members to reflect organizational values in their online behavior by explaining the best kind of material to share.
- Protect your organization’s reputation. Include the consequences of posting unflattering information about your company. Remind employees that anything they post – even content marked private – can and will be used against them and their employer. This is no time for equivocation. If it includes “up to and including termination” language, state it here.
- Reduce lost time and productivity spent on unauthorized use of social media. Include details of disciplinary measures if the policy is breached. Have employees sign off to affirm they have read and understood your policy.
- Spell out who in your organization is the official spokesperson. This applies to traditional as well as social media. Let employees know who they should refer to online questions to about your company, so they don’t answer themselves.
- Educate your workforce. Show your employees what good social media can do for your business – and the potential negative outcomes of mishandling online content. Use real-life examples to illustrate what happens when people fail to use common sense. This is a critical ounce of prevention that will remind people to think before they click.
Do you need help developing or improving your company’s social media policy? Maybe it’s one of a growing list of HR priorities currently challenging you – with only so many hours in the day and so many resources at your disposal. Have you considered outsourcing some of these responsibilities, so you can focus on keeping your business competitive?