Over 90 percent of U.S. companies use social media for marketing purposes. However, only a few have implemented a sound social media policy. Other organizations don’t put nearly enough attention on their social media policy. Some of them either have one that isn’t adequate to protect their business’ interests or don’t have a social media policy entirely. Is your policy right for your business? We’re listing down a few items that you should include when you’re creating your social media policy.
Why It’s Important to Have a Social Media Policy
“You don’t really need a social media policy,” some people say. This statement would have been valid 15 years ago when smartphones weren’t really a “thing” and only a small percentage of the population knew what the term “social media” meant. Things are different now.
It’s 2019! Almost everyone owns a smartphone. Almost everyone has access to social media apps that make posting statuses and responding to other people’s updates or comments easy and even enticing. And, when we say almost everyone, we mean even your employees.
Now, why is this such a concern?
We’re in an era where information is readily available and easily shared. One careless comment made by an individual connected to your company could produce dire consequences for your business. Without a social media policy to guide those who work in your organization on what should and shouldn’t be done online, one small mishap can escalate quickly. If not handled well, this could become problematic for your company.
So, is a social media policy essential for your business? The answer is yes. Here’s why.
Social Media is a Part of Our Daily Lives
Preventing your employees from accessing their social media accounts is no longer an option. Most people will take it as a strike against their privacy and freedom. Social media is now a part of our everyday lives. It’s deeply embedded in our society. If you take measures to discourage employees from using it, then you might be facing more than just disgruntled employees. You’ll also be subjecting your organization to quick employee turnover and a potentially bad reputation once the news spreads (and trust us, it will).
Social Media Has Made It Difficult to Separate Work From Personal Life
Social media has made the world smaller. The chances of one person knowing a friend of a friend of a friend is high. This means it’s difficult (if not impossible) to hide one’s affiliations. Chances are people already know which friend of theirs is working for your organization. They’ll make the connection whether you like it or not. Thus, what these employees share, post, and comment on can easily be taken as a reflection of what your company stands for.
Employee Advocacy Is an Effective Means of Promotion
If there are so many ways employees can compromise your company’s position on social media, then wouldn’t it be better to restrict their access to social media entirely?
Well, not really.
While rash posts or comments by employees can negatively affect your business, positive ones benefit your organization. For instance, employee advocacy, or the promotion of the company by the people working for it, is a strong marketing strategy. As a matter of fact, it’s considered one of the most effective means of promotion.
These are some of the reasons why.
Your employees probably already have social media accounts. Moreover, they have their own set of followers who might not know your brand that well yet, or whom you’re not yet connected with.
If your staff members start posting about your company, events, or promos on their personal social media accounts, it gives your brand more organic visibility, and at no extra cost!
It Can Boost Brand Reputation
Voluntary and genuine employee participation can also improve your brand’s reputation. People are more inclined to believe what the people they know say, more than your paid ads.
Additionally, if word your company’s good treatment of employees and excellent work environment gets spread through your staff members’ personal reviews or status updates on social media, more people will want to work for you. This can make recruitment much easier. Plus, it could also help you improve your sales.
The key is to manage how your employees act on social media. And this can be made possible with a reliable social media policy.
Now, the question is how do you create a social media policy that can help your company gain the benefits of employee advocacy with less risk? This is what we’ll be discussing next. But, before that, let’s get into the basics.
What Exactly is a Social Media Policy?
A social media policy is a set of guidelines on how employees should conduct themselves when they’re on social media. It ensures the people working for your organization are aware of the company’s rules and their responsibilities.
Implementing this can reduce the risk of having bad publicity on social media. This can be difficult to handle once it starts getting unwanted attention.
While it can be easy to add a bunch of rules to your social media policy, there are three things that you should keep in mind.
Your Social Media Policy Should Be Easy to Understand
Be clear and concise in your guidelines. If you want your employees to follow your company’s rules and regulations, then you have to make it easy for them to understand. The best way to make sure that your staff members truly know what the policy is all about is to have a representative explain each item on your list of social media do’s and don’ts and the reason why each rule is in place.
It Should Help and Empower Employees
Instead of simply telling employees what they can’t do on social media, it’s better to show them what they can do to help the organization. Your policy should serve as a guide to managing the actions of your employees online. However, it shouldn’t make your employees feel that you’re preventing them from exercising their freedom of speech.
It Should Align With Your Company’s Values
A good social media policy is one that’s in line with your company’s values. A policy that doesn’t work well with what your company stands for will only seem inconsistent.
What to Include in Your Social Media Policy
Aside from the usual legal, copyright, privacy, and confidentiality clauses, here are a few things you might consider including in your social media policy.
The Reason Why There is a Need for a Social Media Policy
When you set rules, you have to explain the reason behind them. That’ll make it easier for employees to understand why they have to follow them.
Keep in mind that restriction in any form could cause resistance, and that’s totally normal. There’ll be questions about their relevance. When this happens, make sure to address their concerns appropriately and to explain clearly why they have to adhere to your company’s social media policy.
The People Responsible for Speaking on Behalf of the Company
Include the names and positions of the people who can speak on behalf of the company on social media. These people should be the only ones who can provide official statements regarding the company’s affairs. Your employees should understand that those who aren’t given this authority shouldn’t be providing information or answering questions on behalf of the organization.
Personal Account Guidelines
How your employees act will reflect on your company image, so provide guidelines on how they should properly conduct themselves online. Remind them to think before they post, to get their facts straight before they say anything (especially if it’s work-related), to credit sources (if they ever post or share information), and to be aware of the federal and state laws.
Important and confidential information in the hands of those who want to harm your company could be fatal. Emphasize the importance of taking measures to keep their personal and work accounts, as well as their devices, safe. Stress the importance of using strong passwords and remind them to change them every few months.
What Your Business Considers Confidential
It’s also vital to clearly define what “confidential information” means in your business. Let them know why they should always keep in mind not to share the information to others, especially on social media.
Employee advocacy is good for your business. Encourage your employees to participate appropriately in online discussions, but make clear guidelines on how to go about it. For instance, if they reply to a thread related to your business, they should include their name, their position in the company, and a disclaimer saying that they’re only stating their personal opinion and not the company’s.
Process for Handling Conflicts
Your social media policy is put in place to prevent untoward incidents from happening. However, if something does occur accidentally, your employees must be made aware of how they should handle the situation. State what they must and mustn’t do and who they should contact in case of emergency to prevent the issue from escalating. It’s also good to remind them to be vigilant and to keep their eyes peeled for possible publicity problems.
The Benefits of Having a Social Media Policy
Your social media policy is important, especially in today’s setting. Here are a few of its many benefits.
A slip of the tongue or a small mistake has the potential to affect your company. A proper social media policy can help minimize this by making it clear that what your employees say on their personal accounts doesn’t necessarily reflect the company’s views and opinions.
Helps You Manage Your Employees’ Conduct
Employees represent the company. How they act – regardless of whether or not they’re the official company representatives – could affect how others view the company.
A proper social media policy can help you manage your company’s image by providing employees guidelines on how they should act or conduct themselves whenever they’re participating in online discussions or posting things on their own accounts.
Protect Your Business’s Confidential Information
There’s a reason why we label some information confidential. Its release to the public could impact your organization greatly. While most employees understand that confidential information must be handled with care, some might forget and unknowingly leak information online. With a sound social media policy, your employees will be constantly reminded to keep the confidential information that the company entrusted them with strictly within the organization.
Handle Incidents More Systematically
Having a social media policy in place can also help your organization handle unforeseen incidents online in a more organized manner. This can do a lot for preventing bad publicity from getting out of hand.