Your staff are moving online in numbers and they are spending more time on the internet. There were 2.07 billion social media users in 2015. By 2020, the number had grown to 3.96 billion active users. With over 90% growth in just 5 years, there is no better time than now to have a social media policy in place for your staff, especially since they may be spending up to 20% of their day on the internet.
What is a Social Media Policy?
A social media policy is a code of conduct that provides guidelines for your employees, whether they post content on the Internet for personal or professional reasons. Your social media policy should describe how your staff should behave and interact online.
Why your Business Needs a Social Media Policy
Many business owners think their companies need a social media policy mainly to protect the business from potential crisis or online embarrassment. While this is true, your social media policy should actually achieve much more. It should also encourage your staff to advocate for your company online. Since they are already on social media, they might as well help to put your company in the best light. After all, when your employees make a post, it will achieve 8 times more engagement compared to when the brand directly shares the same content.
Plus, an official social media policy can help to achieve these:
- Maintain your brand identity online
- Protect your brand reputation
- Reduce confusion and eliminate ambiguity
- Provide awareness about legal and regulatory issues
- Prevent a security breach
- Prevent a full-blown PR crisis
- Encourage employee advocacy
- Provide the opportunity to command the narrative in a crisis or breach
- Set clear expectations to employees about their social media responsibilities
Guide to Creating your Social Media Policy
Create a Team: An actionable social media policy must be inclusive at its core. Everyone’s perspectives and concerns must be considered and addressed. The best way to achieve this is by ensuring the team that creates the policy includes representatives from every cadre/department of your business such as the senior management, HR, marketing, IT and legal departments.
Give Your Policy Visibility: If you don’t make the policy available to your staff after creating it, then they won’t use it. The best place to house the policy is in your employee handbook. You can also include it on the staff website so anyone can easily access it online.
Launch and review: After creating your social media policy, you’ll need to update it frequently. Why? The average number of social media accounts per person is now 8.8 which is over 80% increase compared to the 4.8 accounts per person in 2014. Surely, the nuances of a social media policy for someone on 8 social media platforms would be different from when the same person managed just 4!
What to Include in a Social Media Policy
Define Team Roles – You need to define the two main roles of employees on social media: official and personal. For official use, clearly state who manages which social accounts and their responsibilities on a daily, weekly or on-demand basis. Clearly highlight who can speak on behalf of the company and in what capacity.
State Acceptable Conduct and Content – Let your employees know what they can and cannot post online. For example, let them know they must be respectful towards others and avoid posting derogatory, defamatory, or inflammatory content. When their relationship with your company cannot be hidden, they should be open and transparent about their role, but still maintain workplace confidentiality. They should not get involved in online bickering about the company and its activities.
Regulations, Proprietary Information and Legal Restrictions – Ensure your staff know what they are allowed or prohibited from posting on a legal basis, not just for official accounts but their personal accounts also. Your policy should explain key concepts like copyright, confidentiality and privacy.
Conflict or Crisis Contingency Plan – First, let your employees know what constitutes a crisis or conflict since social media use is full of risks. Then make it clear what they should do in such situations. While social media policy is there to prevent the need for a social media crisis management plan, it is still advisable to put one in place.
Guide for Personal Social Media Accounts – Let your employees know that their conduct on their personal profiles affects your company. While some companies mandate their employees to issue a disclaimer that dissociates their social media interaction from their place of work (you can too), it does not rule out the need for employees to conduct themselves respectfully online. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer report, “Employees are the most credible voices on multiple topics, including the company’s work environment, integrity, innovation and business practices.”
Encourage Employee Participation – Explain to your staff that their social media presence can help the company recruit great talent, improve the company’s sales and also help them build their personal brand. Motivate them to share why they enjoy working in your company, and how they feel supported by the work environment.
Implementing your Social Media Policy
Your employees are already active across multiple social media platforms and if you harness their presence meaningfully, it can deliver incredible results for your company and protect their digital footprint. Equip them with the right set of guidelines by creating a social media policy that doesn’t just focus on making sure they don’t mess up. Instead, challenge them to be more intentional, involved and optimistic in their social media use.
When they have a clear picture of what constitutes acceptable and productive behaviour, they will feel freer and more motivated to participate. If you’re finding it difficult to create a social media policy that protects everyone’s interests, we are here to help you create a strategy that works.