Social media policy

  • HR Policies Documentation
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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In this guide, we’ll explain what a social media policy is, why you need one and how to create one for your company.

Social media has quickly become a part of many businesses. Organisations in every industry now have social accounts on a number of platforms.

However, social media can sometimes cause problems for businesses. A good social media policy can help you minimise the risk by explaining what your company expects from its staff.

Without a well written social media policy, you could risk backlash from customers and clients, legal claims and damage to your business reputation.

In this guide, we'll discuss what a social media policy is, what you need to include and how to create a social media policy.

What is a social media policy?

A social media policy is a great way for businesses to set out clear rules around social media use. It is a list of rules and guidelines that outlines both correct and improper social media use both in and out of the workplace.

A good social media policy should cover the use of both your brand's social channels and employee personal accounts. Your policy should apply to everyone in your company regardless of their role or position. So you need to make sure that it is simple and easy for anyone to understand.

A social media policy can be part of your wider social media strategy and should be introduced to all employees when they join your company. Early introduction can help make sure that all of your employees comply with the guidelines in place.

Why do you need a social media policy?

Managing a corporate social media account is very different to managing personal social media accounts. While many of your employees will have experience managing small local followings, your company account could reach people all over the world.

Let's explore some reasons for a social media policy.

Maintain your brand identity

You may think that all of your staff have a clear grasp on your brand identity. However, it isn't always common sense. Clear guidelines allow you to grow your online presence without the risk of brand damage.

Your company's social media channels should reflect your brand's tone of voice to help maintain a good company image. This image should reflect your company values and present a great face for your organisation.

Having rules in place can help your marketing team maintain a united front and ensure consistency across all social platforms. This can make your business seem more trustworthy and reliable to potential customers.

Protect your brand from legal challenges

Posting on social media can come with a range of complications. Including mistakenly violating privacy and copyright law.

Third party content and intellectual property come with a range of complicated rules that you and your staff need to be aware of. These include gaining permission from the creator and avoiding taking credit. A well made policy can protect your brand should you face any legal trouble.

Consult with legal counsel to help create a list of do's and don'ts that you expect employees to follow. These rules should discourage employees from acting inappropriately and posting anything that could lead to legal action.

Prevent security breaches

There are many privacy and security issues associated with social media. There may be a time when private information about your business or customers is leaked. Either by mistake or maliciously.

Having protocols in place can help you avoid a security breach. This should include password protection methods and selecting appropriate employees to manage this process.This is usually senior staff in your marketing or social media department.

Scammers and other online criminals have been known to use social media to target companies. Phishing and ransomware attacks are used frequently to steal information without employees knowing it's happening.

Having rules in place can educate staff on how to avoid these attacks. This can encourage employees to be aware of potential scams and limit the risk of cyber attacks.

Avoid a PR crisis

A social media policy reduces the chance of the wrong thing being shared online. If an employee posts personal opinions about controversial subjects this could have a big impact on brand reputation. Especially if the views aren't shared by the company as a whole.

But despite your best efforts, you may find yourself facing a potential PR crisis. That's why it's best to have a crisis management plan in place before it happens. Being proactive can help protect your business and avoid panic, should the worst happen.

Your crisis management plan should cover what your response will be, who it will be shared by and when. This can speed up your response and limit potential backlash.

Clarify your employee's responsibilities

Your social media team should each be aware of their responsibilities. This should include what can and can't be posted online as well as the approval process in place. However, employee personal accounts can also pose a risk to your business.

It can be difficult to monitor or control what your employee's post on their personal social media accounts. But you may want to implement some general rules.

Some issues can be avoided with the use of common sense. For example asking employees to avoid posting any intellectual property.

What should you include in your social media policy?

Your company's social media policy needs to fit the needs of your business. It should be easily understood by all staff and clearly explain how employees should behave on each social media platform.

Let's look at some examples.

Responsibilities and roles

Your social media team needs to know their roles. It should be clear who 'owns' each account, who is in charge of creating posts and who must make sure that they fit the company tone of voice.

A good starting point is to split responsibilities and share the workload. This can be done by assigning key roles to different members of the team. There are a lot of parts that make up a social media policy, so consider who should be in charge of the following:

  • Posting and engaging with online communities.
  • Customer complaints and brand reputation.
  • Strategy and planning.
  • Advertising and paid social posts. 
  • Security and password protection. 
  • Crisis response.
  • Social listening.
  • Expansion to new social media sites.

As a minimum, your policy should clearly establish who can speak for the brand and who has final say on publishing content.

Security protocols

As mentioned before, there are a lot of security risks associated with social media. That's why it's important to have a company social media policy in place to protect the company's interests.

You need to consider what information is at risk and how you can help protect this. You can do this by asking and deciding:

  • How often should the passwords be changed on the company account?
  • Which employees should have access to this information? 
  • How often is organisational software updated? 
  • Which devices can access the network?
  • Can personal devices be used to access company accounts?
  • How often do you review the company social media guidelines?

The answers to these questions should help you determine the amount of security your accounts need.

Plan of action

We've already discussed the potential risks that come with social networking sites. Planning ahead can help alleviate some of the pressure should the worst happen.

Your policy should include a plan of action that employees can follow in an emergency. This could be a security breach caused by an employee not following your social media policy.

Your crisis plan should include:

  • How to assess the seriousness of the crisis.
  • How to manage internal communications.
  • An approval process for response.

Having these points decided ahead of time can improve your response time and minimise the potential fall out.

Advice on complying with the law

Different industries have different legal requirements on what can and can't be posted on social media. For example, some are very strict and place a blanket ban on posting anything about their roles. This is commonplace in the legal profession.

Others however, are encouraged to use social sites to improve their social networking community. This is often done in sales and recruitment roles.

Your social media policy should provide guidelines on how employees can stay compliant. This could include:

  • How to comply with copyright law and third-party content.
  • How to handle customer information.
  • How to manage private company data.
  • Restrictions around customer testimonials.

This is not a complete list as your specific legal guidelines will depend on your industry and company aims. .

Guidance on employee personal social media accounts

Everyone uses their personal social media accounts differently. While some of your employees may be very open about their lives, others may be selective about what they choose to share and post.

While you can't fully control how an employee uses their personal accounts, you can implement a few guidelines. This could be as simple as asking employees to specify that all opinions shared are their own.

Other guidance could include:

  • Whether they can post content about the workplace.
  • Whether they can post content showing them in their employee uniform.
  • Whether they can share where they work in social media bios.
  • Whether they can share company opinions.
  • Whether they can identify themselves as an employee when discussing the company or other competitors.

Advocacy guidelines

It's great to have employees that want to promote your business on their own social media accounts. But it's unlikely that your general employees know the do's and dont’s of posting about your brand online.

Happy employees are some of the best advocates on social media sites. They provide genuine insight that makes your brand seem trustworthy. But they may need some guidance on what is and isn't appropriate to post online.

You may want your employees to promote a new product or service on social media. But you probably don't want an employee jumping the gun and posting about it before it's ready to go live.

To avoid mistakes your social media policy should include:

  • Whether employees can post about brand and company updates.
  • If employees can engage with people mentioning your company brand on social media.
  • Whether employees should deal or interact with negative comments and interactions on social media.

You may ask employees to avoid interacting with negative comments. Instead you should ask them to flag them to a relevant department.

Disciplinary action

Sometimes employees don't follow the rules. By doing so, they can leave your company at risk of backlash from customers, clients and even the media.

You should outline potential disciplinary action  as part of your social media policy. Knowing the risks encourages employees to follow the rules. If they don't you can begin following your company's disciplinary process.

How to create a social media policy

There are a few things to consider when creating a social media policy. You can't just copy a social media policy example from another similar company. A good policy needs to fit the specific needs of your company, and address any concerns that your employees may have.

Let's take a look at how to write an effective social media policy.

Consider the purpose

Different companies use their social accounts for different purposes. For some it may be a tool to reach new customers, others may use it to network and stand out within their online community.

The purpose of your accounts can help determine what you include in your social media policy. Remember that your social accounts speak on your company's behalf. This means nothing should be shared that you wouldn't want public.

Collaborate with stakeholders

Seek input from key stakeholders in your company. Ask what is important to them in relation to brand reputation and security. Doing so can help you create a comprehensive social media policy that covers a range of important issues.

Different departments can provide different insight into the needs of your company. While not every employee needs to be involved, a range of opinions and insights can improve the effectiveness of your social media policy.

Team leaders, union representatives and members of your human resources team should all be involved. Their unique insights can help you address any ideas, questions, or concerns coming from your workforce.

Promote it within the workplace

Company policies are only effective if your staff are aware of them. All policies should be stored somewhere easily accessible. This could be within your company's employee handbook, employment contracts or on your company intranet.

Information about all your company policies should be given to new starters as part of the induction process. This can help ensure that all staff are aware of the rules from day one. You need to keep staff in the loop about any potential changes to the policy. This can be done via a company wide email or internal memos.

Depending on your company needs, you may consider posting it on your external website. This can help cement you as a trustworthy organisation and show how much you care about keeping important information confidential.

Review its effectiveness

Despite your best efforts, you may find that your social media policy isn't quite hitting the mark. That's why it's important to regularly review and update your policy as needed.

If you find that rules aren't being followed or that breaches of security are happening more often than they should, you need to address this. It may be that the rules are unclear, or that they don't fit the current needs of your business.

Talk to your employees to gain feedback on the current policy and how it could be improved.

Update as needed

Social platforms are constantly changing and adapting. New features and upgrades are always being released meaning your policy needs to adapt to meet new needs.

Social media policies can become outdated quickly. Especially with the rise of new platforms and networking sites. Keeping up to date with the changing world of social media can help you maintain an effective and relevant social media policy.

You should look to update your policy annually. Potentially more if your company relies on social media for day-to-day communication with clients. Your social media team should be up to date with any new social sites and platforms. When big changes are made, make sure to review your policy to remain inline with potential regulatory challenges.

Get expert advice on social media policies from Peninsula

Social media is now a big part of business. Companies across all industries are using it to reach new customers and demographics. And when done right it can bring in new revenue streams and help grow your business.

But if you don't have the right policy in place, employees can make mistakes. That's why your policy needs to be fit for purpose and not a copy of another company's social media policy template.

Get your social media policy wrong and you could end up with you facing serious legal problems and reputational damage. Peninsula offers expert advice on managing creating a social media policy. Our HR team offers unlimited 24/7 HR employment services which are available 365 days a year.

Want more information? Seek specialist advice from one of our HR advisors. For further information, call our telephone number 0800 051 3638.

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