Even as we step into 2017, the line defining the difference between work and personal posts when it comes to social media is still a bit blurry. It can be confusing for employees to know what they can and can't say about work, or what's expected of them, especially when it hasn't been properly defined. Here's how you can create a simple social media policy for your workforce, one where everyone wins.
This blog was revised from a previous post, and has been updated to reflect current changes since its initial release.
Types of Social Policies
There are a few ways to approach your company's policy. There's the strict approach, the common sense approach and one that is nestled between the two. Which policy you choose truly depends on your company and the industry you're in.
#1 The Strict Policy
- employees often must state disclaimers separating themselves from their company
- workers are not able to communicate as customer service unless granted permission
- employees cannot share company logos
- social media is not allowed or tolerated in the workplace
#2 The Common Sense Policy
- users should be respectful and courteous
- employees are expected to be honest about who they are
- workers aren't permitted to publish confidential company information
- workers are expected to respect the privacy of coworkers and clients
#3 The Balanced Policy
- employees are allowed to promote company events respectfully
- users should avoid controversial topics to steer clear of negative press topics
- encouraged to interact with marketing online
- allowed to state the company they work for and talk about the company
Be specific about what you expect, provide examples and alternative solutions to situations so there is never any confusion. Remember, one bad post can ruin a company's reputation much quicker than many good posts can save it.
It's important to weigh the pros and cons when deciding what to include in your policy. If you want your brand to seem more personable, a more lenient policy is likely going to achieve that goal. However, this can also cause issues because not every employee's opinion of "appropriate" is on the same level as another. Companies who completely rule against social media or control it too much must understand the risk of releasing the chance of any positive benefits social often has on business. Talk with your marketing team or management to get their input on direction.
Distributing Your Policy
This is a key step - you can't expect your employees to follow your rules if they don't know what they are!
- First, be sure to include a copy of your policy in all new hires' welcome packets. Point the document out, and let them know where they can address any questions, because there will be questions.
- It might be best to hold a meeting to introduce the new policy to your team, and maybe others within your building through their departments. Be clear that this is an open forum for people to voice questions and concerns to avoid problems down the road.
A Few Examples
There are many approaches that companies have taken in the past regarding social media at work. Take a look at HubSpot's article here and use tactics from some the companies they highlighted when drafting your own.
Best Buy's policy places focus on not sharing pubic information and addressing privacy concerns. They also tackle the topic of branding and separating the employees' messages from the company's image. They want employees to state that opinions in their posts are theirs and theirs alone, and have no affiliation with the store.
Oracle took a stricter approach, one where they limit the use of social media with regard to it possibly "hindering productivity". Their policy is on the strict side, however if you work in a law firm or a building where security is highly regarded, taking a limited approach may be a good option for you.
Ford's written policy allows employees quite a bit of freedom. They respect workers' need to communicate, and ask for them to use common sense when making decisions as to what to post. This could be a good starting point for smaller firms or workplaces that want employees to share information going on at their company, but in a respectful, appropriate way.
In today's virtual working world, social media will inevitably come up. It's critical to define what your company expects early on, so you can benefit from the positive aspects of the medium rather than trying to fight against them.