The short answer is yes. All employees should have the standard handbook, the do’s and the don’ts and included in that should be the social media policy.
Why is a social media policy important?
A social media policy is there to guide and minimise risks. It’s a must-have for all organisations and it outlines how everyone should conduct themselves online.
What your employee sees as a “fun” post could have lasting damaging consequences for your business.
Many businesses spend years building a reputable brand and it could all be ruined with one wrong tweet or Facebook post. As a business owner, you may think that everyone should think just like you and use common sense but that isn’t the case, common sense is a superpower! There can never be any grey areas, everything must be laid out right from the beginning.
Now you mustn’t go to the other extreme, from having no social media policy to one that makes everyone petrified of doing anything online, there has to be a happy balance and that’s why when we talk about policies we change that word to guidelines. Having guidelines sounds friendlier and that’s exactly what a social media policy actually is, just a set of guidelines for your employees to follow.
Having a social media policy is important, not to just protect the business brand but it also protects your employees from getting wrapped up in sticky situations.
What should be included in a social media policy?
The brand is so important and your employees are the ambassadors of your brand. That no longer stops at closing time because there is the online life that they must consider. While employed by your business they must conduct themselves in a way online that would never jeopardise the brand. Let’s look at it this way … Say you’re a business who has just employed an influencer to talk about your vegan products but then he or she were caught eating a hotdog at the local sausagefest! That would not look good for the brand would it! It’s the same for employees, if they go completely off-brand online after work hours it can affect the brand. The social media guidelines should stipulate what isn’t acceptable for the business brand and what shouldn’t be posted on social media.
During work hours employees should have a clear understanding of the voice of the brand so if they are posting on behalf of the business they stay in that voice.
Employees should be reminded that even if they think they’re posting something private it can be screenshot and used against them or the business, so before posting anything they must think twice. This also goes for any private recording they do, for example, audio messages in Whatsapp.
Define social media
Social media is more than Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. What if an employee made a comment on a blog post, or commented on a Youtube video or did a drinking challenge on TikTok? Social media must be defined and the fact that it continues to evolve must also be addressed.
What is considered normal use of social media during work hours? Are there rules about accessing social media at work? Clearly outline what social media can be used in work hours ( if any ) and what devices. Can employees use their own devices for social media use in their downtime? All this needs to be considered.
There should be a clear outline for employees to follow. ie if they come across a newsworthy industry post that they’d like to share, can they share it? Or do they pop it into dropbox for the marketing team to share? Can they comment in groups on behalf of their department or do they need to signpost the marketing team to certain conversations? and so on
If there’s a problem or an employee just needs general advice then who is the GoTo person or GoTo department for that? Employees should be able to access someone quickly for fast decisions when it comes to social media. It could be a journalist on Twitter who says he or she are going to print in one hour and want a comment, things happen fast on social media.
Some things must never be talked about online like customer details, employee details, business-sensitive information. It’s not just talking about these things online it’s being aware of everything. An example would be sharing of what appears a harmless work picture but when you look closer all the staff details are on show on the desk. When including confidentiality in the policy think about the many scenarios it could cover.
Obvious bad posts
It might be obvious for some but not always so obvious for others, so in the social media policy, you have to make it very clear. That means you list no defamatory comments, no sexist, no discriminative, no racist or ageist comments must ever be uttered on social media from any of your employees.
Your employees must know how you want the brand logo etc to be shared online. For example, if your brand is in the colour of blue then you wouldn’t want one of your employees adding a filter to it to make it look purple.
They should also be told about the IP of others, taking someone else’s pictures and sharing as their own is not allowed and constitutes a breach of copyright.
You should always want to help your employees to use social media responsibly because employees shouting great things about the company is always good. People are sixteen times more likely to read a post from a person than from a company account, so your employees acting as brand ambassadors should always be encouraged.
But you must protect your business.
The policy should clearly state that it applies to anyone working for the business whether they are at work in working hours or outside of working hours. There will be some employees who will think that after work hours they can post what they like but if it’s damaging to the business they need to be held responsible.
The content of your social media policy is very important especially if you ever have to take action.
Mistakes will happen, it’s inevitable until every employee is as familiar with social media as they are the telephone. Having a social media policy in place will help you limit mistakes.