Social media policies span the gamut from strict control and outright bans of employees interacting on behalf of their company in social media to much more relaxed, encouragement of employees social media use.

Good Social Media Policies Usually Include

Common Sense - Advising employees to use common sense when posting on social media and reminding employees that their actions, even in private settings, can reflect poorly on the company if those actions are reported via social media.
“With great power comes great responsibility” is a concept discussed at length in Spiderman comic books and movies, but it’s a concept that aptly applies to employees’ social media use. As we’ve discussed, employees need to be reminded often of the vitality of social media, and their social media use should be used, whenever possible, for good rather than bad.
Sensitive Information - Employees, including many front-line employees, are privy to sensitive, corporate information. Employees need to be reminded that sensitive company information should not be shared widely via social media, including hirings/firings, are sales trending up or down, planned product launches, etc..
Copyright - A social media policy should remind employees of copyright issues. Does the company have proper permissions before sharing photos, etc.

Legal/labor issues - A Fortune 1000 executive tasked with updating or revising their company’s social media policy for employees must have internal lawyers or external counsel review the final policy. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that some of employees’ social media is activity now protected by federal labor law. Employees can’t be prohibited or sanctioned for using social media to vent about an employer if they employee is speaking on behalf of a group of employees or their intention is to improve the conditions of their job. Therefore, your company’s social media policy should be reviewed in the context of these federal labor law rulings.

To ensure a successful corporate social media policy, clear ownership for the policy must be established internally. This “ownership” will include:

Reviewing - Reviewing the policy quarterly and updating it to ensure that it’s still relevant with changing technologies as well as legal issues.

Regular Reminders - Employees have a lot on their plates with their day-to-day business operations, they will need to be regularly reminded of the company’s social media policy and their obligation as employees to use social media responsibly. These reminders can happen via a variety of internal communication channels.

Some companies are requiring regular social media training internally for employees and all incoming employees.

Positive Examples - When communicating with employees about the company’s social media policy, it can help to use a carrot vs. stick approach. You can highlight positive social media use by employees. A recent photo of coffee shop employees praying with a woman who’d just lost her husband spread virally online. While it raises some thorny issues of religion in the workplace, this is a good example of front-line employees’ positive actions spreading virally via social media. The subsequent good will and positive reactions definitely impact the public’s perception of the company.

Crisis Plan

What happens if the unexpected happens in your company - an employee’s bad behavior is splashed across digital screens far and wide?

Do you have a social media crisis plan in place? Would you turn to your standard corporate crisis PR plan? It’s vitally important that the internal teams who draft social media policies for your employees, think about this possibility. You don’t want to wake up one morning with a social media crisis on your hands, and management executives are asking each other, “Now what do we do?”

Here are some things to keep in mind for a social media crisis plan:

Who’s in charge - What’s the chain of command during a crisis? Is HR in charge? Is corporate communications in charge? Is it a collaborative team?

Who will communicate on behalf of the company - Who internally runs/manages corporate social media accounts? Does an outside vendor/marketing agency run them? How accessible are those corporate social media accounts at a moment’s notice? Who keeps track of passwords/usernames for corporate social media accounts?

The final piece of your social media policy should be simplicity. Don’t have your legal team or advisors write your policy. A boring formal social media policy won’t be read and your time will be wasted. Write in a way that employees can relate to and understand. Get your point across and use examples whenever possible.

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