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Business Ethics

What to Include in Your Company's Social Media Policy


By Shelley Kilpatrick Jan 19, 2016

Why You Need a Social Media Policy

social media policyPeople are using social networking sites more than ever before. Which means that social media in the workplace isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But that’s not a bad thing.

Social media is a great tool for engaging employees and recruiting them to be advocates for your brand. On the other hand, it can distract employees and pose potential legal risks.

So what can you do to encourage the positive aspects of social media while reducing the negative aspects? Create and frequently update a social media policy.

According to Sprout Social, a social media management software company, the two main goals of the policy are to:

  • Let your employees know what they can and can’t post on their social media accounts about the company
  • Help to protect your company from potential legal risks and social media crises

In order to accomplish these goals, let’s examine some important sections you should include in your company’s social media policy.

5 Sections to Include in Your Social Media Policy

1. Introduction/Purpose

The first thing you need to include is an induction that covers the purpose of the social media policy. This is the time to align the policy with your company values. Let employees know that the objective of the policy is to encourage them as company advocates, but it also exists to protect the company and its interests.

A great example of comes from IBM’s social media policy. IBM states that it wants employees to learn from clients through social media, and also to share exciting innovations with them. It also states that while other companies were restricting access to social media, IBM has always encouraged employee participation.

2. Transparency

You should also include a section on transparency. Remind your employees that they need to disclose where they work. And also employees need to identify that they are posting as themselves, not as representatives of your company.

One way you can communicate this is to give examples like the ones found in Cisco’s social media policy. Cisco provides three disclaimer examples:

  • An employee’s personal Twitter
  • A sponsored blog post
  • A third party blog

They even provide an example of how to post a personal reference on LinkedIn.

3. Respect

Another important topic that your policy should cover is respect. Communicate to your employees that unlawful harassment and bullying are unacceptable online the same as within the workplace.

You also need to inform employees that they need to respect your company’s products and services. Adidas’ social media policy does a great job of illustrating this point. It uses an example of how bad-mouthing the company can hurt not only the company, but the employee as well.

4. Responsibility

One more element to include in your policy is responsibility. Let employees know that they have a responsibility to keep customer information private. Additionally, employees need to know that they must follow copyright laws, trademark laws and other intellectual property laws.

In its social media policy, Coca-Cola does an excellent job addressing each of these areas. Its policy also includes a section on the responsible use of technology.

5. Compliance

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to cover compliance. You must make it very clear that employees need to adhere to your company’s code of conduct—especially within their social media interactions. Include that company secrets, proprietary information and financial information are not to be shared.

Not only do employees need to know how to maintain compliance, they also need to know the consequences if they don’t. Best Buy’s social media policy does an excellent job of communicating what employees can’t disclose and what will happen if they violate the policy.

What’s the Next Step?

Once you’ve created a social media policy, the next step is to train your employees on it.

Training further reinforces the concepts of transparency, respect, responsibility and compliance. It also helps to inform your employees how their social media use can benefit the company, but also how it can hurt them if they do not follow the rules.

If you’d like to learn more about our social media policy training, fill out the form on the right.

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