Whenever I do social media training or seminars one area I always mention is the importance of a business having a social media policy. While some businesses are pro-active and ensure that they have a thorough and up-to-date policy at all times, many businesses I speak to are more informal about their social media policy or do not have one at all.
While a few years ago this relaxed view would have been fine, in today’s increasingly social media savvy world it is far more important to ensure your business’ social media is protected through a comprehensive social media policy.
What is a social media policy?
Social media has a huge impact on a business’ marketing, communication and branding. Even if your business doesn’t actively use social media, it is highly likely that your employees are. A social media policy is a document that will state what can and cannot be posted on your business’ social media platforms, as well as what can and cannot be said about your business by your employees on their private social media platforms. A social media policy can be created internally, either by the business owner or the HR department, however it must be sent to each employee and accessible at all times.
What to include in a social media policy
What you include in your social media policy will be unique to your individual business requirements. If your business uses social media platforms, it is normal to state the tone of voice to be used when posting content, the type of content that can and cannot be posted, who is authorised to post content, what can and cannot be said about your industry and competitors, and crisis management processes.
Your social media policy can also state what employees can and cannot say about your business on their private social media accounts, if employees are allowed to use social media during work hours, what employees can and cannot post about colleagues (to cover online workplace bullying), and what employees can and cannot say about the industry or competitors on their own social media platforms.
What your social media policy cannot cover
While your social media policy will be able to cover all aspects of your business’ social media platforms, as well as when employees are allowed to use their private social media platforms during working hours; the policy is more restricted when covering what can and cannot be posted on private social accounts. You cannot control what your employees say on their private social media accounts, however you can state what they can and cannot say specifically about your business for as long as they are employees of your company. In addition to this, if it is covered by online social media workplace bullying, you can restrict what is posted about colleagues on private social media accounts. In short, your influence over private accounts is restricted specifically to what is posted about your business, industry, competitors and other employees.
How to implement a social media policy
Once you’ve created a social media policy it must be sent to every employee to ensure that they have a chance to read and process the policy, as well as this it should be easily accessible by employees at all times. Your employee contracts should state that employees must follow the social media policy. While your business’ social media platforms can be easily monitored, you have no rights to monitor your employee’s private accounts without their permission or enforce them to add you as a friend/follower so you can monitor what they are posting. While this makes enforcing what is being posted on private accounts difficult, it is essential that employees retain their right to privacy, as well as to have lives away from the work place. If a complaint is made about what someone has posted on a private social media account by an employee you should investigate this thoroughly, but ensuring the accused party is aware of what they are being accused of and have an ability to defend themselves, as well as any legal representation they are entitled to.
At affinity we offer a wide range of social media services including assistance on creating social media policies for businesses, for more information about the services we provide visit our social media page.
Written by Derin Clark, Content Strategist