How to write a simple Social Media Policy For Your Staff

Have any of your staff or team ever used a personal or business social media account to…

  • Tweet on Twitter that they’re bored at work?
  • Post on Facebook that the last client they served today was a pain?
  • Witter away on your company Blog about a secret product launch?
  • Upload an unapproved, amateurish, badly aimed video about your business onto YouTube?

Well you are not alone, these are the types of social media no-go’s that happen to businesses every day. They can be nipped in the bud by putting together (and ‘gently’ enforcing) a simple social media policy for your business.

Why have a Simple Social Media Policy

A simple social media policy is important for all businesses to have because it can accomplish three things:

  • Clearly Sets Expectations for all Employees (Reduce Confusion)
  • Protect Brand Reputation globally
  • Increase Staff Advocacy and Buy In

A simple social media policy shouldn’t just focus on making sure your team doesn’t screw up. It should encourage your team to be more involved with social media overall. When you supply clear guidelines that cut down on confusion as to what a team member can and indeed cannot do on social online, they will feel more free to participate.

What Goes Into Your Simple Social Media Policy

A simple (note this important word here, ‘simple’) policy makes it clear that there are appropriate and acceptable ways to use social media as a team member of your business. More than anything staff tend to like these because they help reduce anxiety and clear up any confusion. It can therefore free up staff to express themselves more on behalf of your company, which should be a good thing!

Your business’s basic social media policies should include the following at a minimum:

  • guidelines on what team members should talk about online;
  • instructions on how to avoid inappropriate content (and what is inappropriate);
  • and rules preventing abuse.

If you and your business manages just  these 3 areas, it will go a long way to protecting your business’s reputation and privacy.

Guidelines On What Your Team Should Talk About Online

You want your your team to talk up and positively your business online right? But not everyone of them will know what sort of things and subjects to cover, and indeed what NOT to. Assist them by simply providing a list of subjects that you’d like to have discussed. What? You mean give them a list of what they can talk about? Heck yes!

Have you got a new product or service launch coming up soon that your business is ready to announce? Did your business just win an award? Has your business, your team or you contributed to the local community in some meaningful way recently? Positive happenings like these are naturals and gold-dust for your Instagrammers, SnapChatters, Tweeters and Facebookers.

In general, anything that portrays your organisation in a positive light – without revealing any confidential information of course – could be open for discussion online.

Some examples?

  • Announcing new hires and team additions.
  • Bragging about recent results both financially or socially.
  • Detailing a day in the life of a particular team member (to show job seekers what it might be like to work for you).

Your team members can also establish themselves as industry experts. In doing this they boost your business’s reputation at the same time. They can update your Facebook page with news about trends and changes in your industry. Or they can Tweet snippets that cover their specific professional area.

Alternatively they could Blog their thoughts and insights into areas that are touched on by their particular role (e.g. marketing, finance, sales, service, production, etc.)

Simple Instructions On Avoiding Inappropriate Content

Once you’ve given your staff something to talk about, you also need to remind them exactly what kind of things they shouldn’t be saying online when representing your business.

  • Badmouthing/slandering the competition is something to be careful of and watch out for. It’s all fine and well to point out your competitive advantages but libeling or slandering other companies, businesses, people, products or services is certainly not. There are of course even legal implications here so it’s better to avoid all negative talk about competitors altogether.
  • Profanity should be out too overall, unless it’s very modest and in line with your corporate culture. Most swearing is very contextually based, and without context is not taken well. Also banned are all negative remarks and insults about team-members, supervisors, your business and the workplace.

A simple rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t want to see it in the headlines of a newspaper, then don’t put it into the public domain online.

Once it’s out on the Internet, word will travel far and wide in the time it takes to click a mouse, the viral effect never working where you want it, and going VIRAL where you don’t!

This does not mean that all personal opinions or observations should be discouraged. It’s just that they have to be balanced with an overall global awareness of where they may (will!) end up.

Some Rules Do Help Prevent Abuse

Simple guidelines are great for steering your team the right way. However you should seriously consider adding some REAL rules that clarify those areas of concern you are most worried about.

We hope that some obvious content restrictions include:

  • confidential data (such as any financial figures that haven’t been published yet); and
  • any negative info that you don’t want made public (for instance internal in fighting, planned down sizing, ANY policy disagreements at the S or C management level).

There are many types of abuse to set rules against, not just those. Such as using time during the working day, or the business’s equipment, to send personal social media messages. Or even taking too many hours a day on work-related social media, to the detriment of other primary role duties.

Be definitive in terms of setting boundaries and stating the consequences for these kind of infractions. Your team will be looking for help in knowing exactly what’s expected of them in the social media realm.

You can stay on top of everything by regularly checking in on your business’s Blog entries, Twitter feeds, Facebook Timeline,  YouTube channels, and all the other social media channels your team are using on your business’s behalf.

Being generally aware of what is being posted will greatly help you in enforcing your new policy.

Simple Social Media Policy

Some Simple Social Media Policy Examples

Take a while to read and study the examples from different approaches that these companies use to manage their employees social media usage and maybe you can borrow some of these techniques for you to use yourself.

DELL’s Social Media Policy

Dell has a very simple and straightforward social media policy. It boils down to six overarching policies.

  • Protect Information
  • Be Transparent and Disclose
  • Follow the Law, Follow the Code of Conduct
  • Be Responsible
  • Be Nice, Have Fun and Connect
  • Social Media Account Ownership

Adidas’ Social Media Policy

  • Employees are allowed to associate themselves with the company when posting but they must clearly brand their online posts as personal and purely their own. The company should not be held liable for any repercussions the employees’ content may generate.
  • Content pertaining to sensitive company information (particularly those found within Adidas internal networks) should not be shared to the outside online community. Divulging information like the company’s design plans, internal operations and legal matters are prohibited.
  • Proper copyright and reference laws should be observed by employees when posting online.

BestBuy social media policy

  • Best Buy also mandates its employees to freely disclose their affiliation with the company granted that disclaimers are set freeing the company from any intellectual investment in the post.
  • Dishonorable content such as racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and physical disability slurs are not tolerated.
  • Employees are not allowed to disclose information that are financial, operational and legal in nature, as well as any information that pertains to clients and customers.

HP (Hewlett-Packard) social media policy

  • HP promotes healthy and honest discourse with its readers.
  • The company reserves the right to edit or amend any misleading or inaccurate content depicted in blog posts. The company also reserves the right to delete blog posts violating the code of conduct.
  • HP values, respects, and upholds the intellectual property rights of its bloggers.

GAP social media policy

  • Some subjects can invite a flame war. Be careful discussing things where emotions run high (e.g. politics and religion) and show respect for others’ opinions.”
  • Your job comes first. Unless you are an authorized Social Media Manager, don’t let social media affect your job performance.”
  • If you #!%#@# up? Correct it immediately and be clear about what you’ve done to fix it. Contact the social media team if it’s a real doozy.”
  • Don’t even think about it…. Talking about financial information, sales trends, strategies, forecasts, legal issues, future promotional activities. Giving out personal information about customers or employees. Posting confidential or non-public information. Responding to an offensive or negative post by a customer. There’s no winner in that game.”

The Los Angeles Times social media policy

  • Principles of integrity, professionalism, privacy and impartiality should be observed by journalists when posting online.
  • The authenticity of what employees post is important. Online journalists should verify questionable content with credible sources before posting or tweeting about it.
  • It is important for employees to properly define their association with the publication as they would do offline.
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