What’s Your Social Media Policy?

Every Company Needs One

If you haven’t established a social media policy for your business, it’s time to get busy.

Social Media IconsLike an Internet Use policy, a social media policy explains how employees can utilize social media when representing the company. If it hasn’t been updated lately, your Internet policy probably doesn’t cover social media. Protect yourself, your brand and your employees with a well-written set of guidelines to govern social media use.

Where to Start

As with any legal document, it’s smart to seek legal advice when developing social media guidelines for your business. Your attorney can advise you on local laws, privacy and other issues that will impact the terms of your policy.

You can buy templates online or get a sample from your social media consultant to get started. You’ll want to tailor these guidelines to the unique aspects of your business, incorporating any generally accepted practices for your industry.

Lots of “Do’s” and a Few “Don’ts”

In drafting your guidelines, let employees know what they can do as well as what they can’t. The idea is not to be rigid and restrictive. Good guidelines allow employees to engage confidently in social media, because they understand what is encouraged as well as what to avoid.

Some items to cover in your policy include:

  • Disclosures and Transparency – Insist that employees are open and honest about whether they are posting on behalf of the company or not. Personal opinions about products and other issues related to the company need to be identified as such.
  • Privacy and Security – Include instructions on how to protect personal and corporate information in social media venues. Provide specific details about what privacy settings should be used on company accounts. Tell employees how they can protect their personal privacy on social media sites, and well as company information.
  • Honesty and Ethics – Incorporate your corporate code of ethics into your social media policy. Highlight any specific concerns about honesty in online postings, from information on individual profiles to status updates and blog postings.
  • Confidential and Proprietary Information – Remind employees of their obligation to protect confidential information belonging to the company, its vendors and customers.
  • Personal and Corporate Profiles – What does you company consider appropriate (or inappropriate) on a social media profile? Address expectations regarding profile pictures, personal bios and company descriptions. Clearly point out what would be considered unacceptable.
  • Use of Images, Copyrighted and Trademarked Materials – How will you protect your brand online? Let employees know what the correct format is for copyright and trademark attribution. Include guidelines on selection of images AND requirements for photo credits, model releases and use of images found online or produced by others.
  • Respect and Consideration – Courtesy online is important. It is very easy for employees to get caught up in a heated discussion, and much harder to unravel the PR mess that may follow. State your policies regarding posting emotional remarks and disparaging, offensive or discriminatory comments. Use your guidelines to address potential problems before they happen, and let employee know what recourse will be taken for violations.
  • Ownership of Corporate Social Media Accounts – In some companies, social media accounts are tied to personal email addresses. When employees leave, access goes with them. Spell out in your policy what will happen when an employee separates from the company. Who owns the account, and how will access be transferred to another employee?

Refresh Regularly

Like your bed sheets, social media policies need to be changed frequently. It’s a good idea to revisit your policy annually. When the updated guidelines are distributed, take advantage of the opportunity to have discussions with employees and train them on how to get the most from social media. Use role-playing and sample scenarios to reinforce the message.

Image by MerveKarahan.

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