Whether a company is actively engaged in social media activities or not, it is safe to assume that the vast majority of their workforce is, and may well be creating a social media presence for their company as a result of their own online activities.

It is therefore extremely important for businesses to produce social media policy guides to protect their own interests and to avoid infringing on the rights of their staff.

First and foremost, always consult country specific legislation around social media, as it is a relatively new field in law that is constantly changing. You must ensure that your rules do not breach the rights of your employees.

Before formulating your policy consider the following points:

  • Will your policy use social media vetting during the employment process? Or will it solely be applied to current employees?
  • Do you want a blanket policy for your entire company? Will different departments have different policies? For instance, it would be unwise to ban the use of Facebook in the workplace if you have a marketing department.
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Once you have established the nature of your social media policy (or policies) do not forget to include the following points:

  • Ensure that you list the types of content that are explicitly forbidden. For instance, confidential and proprietary company or third party information. Employees must respect copyright, privacy and financial disclosure in order to protect the business.
  • When posting about related topics, make sure that staff know to clearly identify themselves as employees and to add a disclaimer along the lines of “the views expressed are mine alone and do not reflect the views of [company name]”.
  • Ask for common sense from your employees, such as avoiding berating the company or colleagues online (particularly as the latter is classed as cyber bullying).
  • Guarantee that you emphasise that your social media policy applies to any multi-media, personal blogs, social networking platforms and wikis for both professional and personal use.
  • You must inform your staff in your social media policy if you intend to actively monitor their social media posts.

You may want to include other points in your social media policy, such as stating that you do not want social media activities to interfere with job performance or commitment to customers.

Once formulated, circulate the document in your offices and ensure that your employees read and sign it. However, this does not guarantee that they’ll have understood it (or indeed if whether they read it), so it is essential to set aside some time to provide a social media training day for your staff.

In order to help your staff members understand your expectations, create a presentation with sample social media content. These could be Tweets, LinkedIn or Facebook posts (and posts on other social platforms), either that your policy approves or disapproves of, Then get your staff to explain why some of these are (or aren’t) acceptable according to your social media policy. This can be made entertaining by showing some extreme gaffes that have been made over the years by employees such as the ‘Bitter Barista’ or the Domino’s employee’s video prank.