Social Media Policy: How to Create a Policy for Your Business

By July 23rd, 2013. 2 comments

Social Media Policy Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola published its social media policy for employees to follow. The basis of the policy is company growth and opportunity.

Do you have a company social media policy?

The time is now to create a policy to make sure your employees are aware of the way their social media use can reflect on your company. You don’t have to be authoritarian about the policy, but communication and a general framework can potentially save your company from a social media gaffe in the future.

Social media use continues to increase.

In fact, growth of social media use seems to be increasing faster over the last year because of mobile technology. People are taking to their tablets and smartphones to connect with others.

Photos, messages, comments and every other social activity is being used during every day life including at the office.

We live in a connected world and it’s no use ignoring the rise of social media. Instead it makes sense to address the issue with a policy that takes advantage of the social media opportunity.

In this post you’ll see how to create a social media policy that doesn’t stifle the social nature of your employees. Instead your employees will fee empowered to contribute to your business growth in new and exciting ways.

Let’s begin.

Social Media Policy: The Company Stance on the Social Media Opportunity

Social Media Policy Best Buy

Best Buy in the USA published its company social media policy in 2009 on their public online community.

Social media presents an opportunity for businesses.

You can build networks of followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other networks and it all leads to more exposure for your company. You can use this exposure to grow your company sales by acquiring customers you wouldn’t otherwise reach with traditional marketing.

The first thing to do in your social media policy is to establish your company stance on social media. Acknowledge the opportunity and get your employees on board with the ways your company will take advantage of the social media opportunity.

You can include some of this information in the policy, but the notice of the opportunity could also be included in an email or letter to employees. Write something about how your company is always looking forward to new opportunities and that social media is an opportunity the company is exploring as a high priority.

From here you can say that with opportunity comes responsibility both from the company and its employees.

Discuss Social Media Responsibility and Productivity

Social Media Policy Dell

Dell Computers published its social media policy and included language about being open and transparent while focusing on being responsible.

Each person at your company needs to understand the responsibility they have concerning their personal and business-related social media practices.

Social media is new in the sense that people have new platforms to connect. Location is no longer a barrier to connecting with others. You can join Facebook and connect with family across the world. You can do the same with business contacts and with Twitter you can follow the latest news updates from everywhere in the world in real time.

Humans have always connected in real life so there’s no reason for a social media policy to differ from similar policies in the office.

What is in your employee handbook regarding employee conversation in face-to-face meetings, in email correspondence and during phone calls?

This information can be used to create social media policy.

Some common items might include:

  • Harassment and bullying are not allowed in any form
  • Make sure your opinions are expressed as your own and not of the company
  • Respect privacy of others

This is basic, common sense stuff used by most human resource departments. Even small companies have guidelines and policies for employees so use them to help create your social media policy.

Productivity should also be touched on in social media policy.

Companies have attempted to stop some online activity in some instances. As more employees gained access to company computers some felt it necessary to block certain websites and online activities.

The reason for these measures has been productivity.

We’re entering a new world of work. Companies and employees are more focused on finishing work than putting in the hours. You don’t need to fully switch to the work method, but you need to let employees know that with freedom to use social media comes the expectation that they will complete their work.

Any lapse in productivity is reason to end the employment agreement.

Quick Note: A company social media policy needs to be vague. You don’t want to violate any laws by prohibiting natural human activity. The more specific you get with your policy the more chance you have of a violation so it’s best to keep things vague and it’s also a good reason to focus on the overall company stance to begin your social media policy.

Common sense is a term used by many companies in social media policies and general employee policies. Use this language to get your point across without crossing any legal lines.

Encourage Community At Your Company

Social Media Policy Intel

Intel used images on its social media policy. They encourage community and staying involved in those communities.

Social media is about community. People reach out to connect with people they know and people they get to know on the Internet. You can connect with friends on Facebook, share updates on Twitter and connect with business contacts on LinkedIn.

You can ask questions in forums and share interesting images and photos on Pinterest.

Every social media site on the Web is geared around community. People connect and form communities that make each site unique and different from the others. It is this community that attracts people to join and contribute.

Something your company can do to encourage community is to setup personal accounts, but represent that they are connected to your company. Ask them to like you on Facebook or add you as their employer on LinkedIn. Ask them to follow you on Twitter for updates. You could even start a company blog to share news from within the company.

Your employees already have their own community. They talk in person at the office. They become friends outside of work. You can tap into this community with social media to enhance the overall effect.

Include Language Concerning Business Knowledge

Social Media Policy HP

HP has a blogging code of conduct specifically for company blogging, but it relates to social media and online publishing in general including the general company standards.

Every business has information vital to the success of the company. This information is usually covered in the employee handbook addressing the issue of employees with the knowledge and how they should not share the information with anyone including personal acquaintances, vendors, etc.

This policy should extend to the social media policy. You want to make sure your business knowledge is protected as best as possible. Make sure every employee understands they are under the same agreement not to share unique information on social media sites or in any other form of communication.

The Difference Between Personal and Business

Social Media Policy Ford

Ford has been heavily involved in social and it encourages its employees to do the same for personal and for business.

When you hire an employee you’re hiring them in their entirety. Zappos has taken this approach in their company and they don’t want to separate life from work. They want their employees to be the same person at work as they are at home.

Zappos was one of the first companies to jump fully into social media with Twitter. The company had employees that would use the Zappos name in their Twitter usernames. Now the company has an app that feeds tweets with links to the company site.

If you want to separate personal and business that’s okay too. Make sure your employees understand that they still need to remember that even in their personal lives they are representatives of the company. Common sense is encouraged when discussing issues that might reflect poorly on the company or others in the company.

Social Media Policy Example Outline

Here is an outline based on some of the major brand social media policies available. This should get you started with your social media policy.

The social media policy example:

SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY & GUIDELINES FOR EMPLOYEES

Revised January 2013

The Social Media Policy & Guidelines are based on the mission of the company. The core values of the company hold true in every aspect of the business and for every employee.

Social media presents a great opportunity for our company to continue to grow in the future. Building a community around our brand is important. Our customers have always had a connection with our brand in media in the past. Today, community is easier to build with online social media websites and networks.

Community is encouraged whether it’s between the business and the customers or amongst employees within the company.

Employees are encouraged to use social media for personal and business reasons. Social media is a great way to gain knowledge and build connections that can benefit everyone personally and professionally.

With every new opportunity there is new responsibility and for this reason there are a few general guidelines for social media use by employees. These guidelines are in accordance with general employee guidelines found in the company employee handbook.

Social Media Guidelines

It should be noted that failure to follow any of the guidelines might result in termination.

Internet postings or published content may include content published on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, Blogs, Forums and other areas where users are free to publish content online.

  • Personal accounts and business-related accounts can be established. Use your best judgment when creating an account.
  • Any information you publish online should not be confidential to the company.
  • Clearly identify yourself as an employee should to publish any information relating to the company.
  • Respect copyright and trademarks including those of the company.
  • No posting should violate the code of conduct relating to harassment or bullying.

General Guidelines

  • Employees should be aware that privacy is a potential issue with Internet publishing. Be mindful of privacy policies and user agreements.
  • Be transparent about yourself. If you are engaging in conversation that results in mention of the company be open about your connection with the company.
  • Focus on quality of conversation and connection. Be a good citizen in the online world just as you would in real life.

Social Media Use at Work

  • Productivity remains a key component of success at the company. Employees have freedom at the company while working to use social media for both personal and professional reasons. Employees are still held to productivity standards for any reason including social media use.
  • Online activity on company equipment and networks is monitored for safety. Remember that your activity is being monitored.
  • Be respectful and safe while using company equipment and networks for online activity. Threats are monitored, but we all need to do our part to keep the company and its employees safe from cyber threats.

Common sense is the overlying factor in social media and in life. Use your best judgment when participating in online activities.

As an employee of the company you represent yourself and the company just as you do in real life. Make sure you are doing well to establish yourself as a good person just as you do every day in your work.

For a complete list of brand policies visit: Social Media Governance

Conclusion

Social media presents a great opportunity for your company. Don’t rush to judgment of social media. You want to embrace the change and the opportunity.

Your employees are likely already using social media. Provide a framework for them to succeed personally and professionally with social media. As your employees succeed so will your company.

With a sound hiring process in place you should be hiring people that already use common sense in every aspect of life. This will reflect in their use of online publishing including social media. You won’t have to worry too much about how your company is represented.

It is still good to provide a framework encouraging community and social media use. Outline ways your employees can use social media for their benefit and for the benefit of the company with certain guidelines. These guidelines will likely come from other areas of your HR handbook so it’s nothing new.

Sending out a social media policy is a great thing. It shows you’re making progress!

Have you put out a social media policy at your company?

What have been your experiences?

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