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Social Media Policy
Like everyone, professionals use social media as an outlet for entertainment, support, connection and expression. How we present ourselves on these platforms, however, may have a direct impact on our employers. A proper social media policy respects that your pages are personal but provides guidance on how one should conduct themselves and the impact on their organization. Read on to learn more.

What Is a Company Social Media Policy?

Often part of a company’s “Code of Conduct” or “Standards of Conduct,” a social media policy informs employees, based on the company’s values, how the organization expects them to comport themselves online or in related media. Social media policies acknowledge the impact of employee behavior on a company’s image and brand and provide or describe recourse in the event that personal behaviors impact the company negatively.

Why Should Businesses Consider Having a Social Media Policy?

There are several reasons why a business should consider having a social media policy. These include protecting the company, accountability for employees, expressing expectations and setting the standards for the organization.
  • Protection. How many times in recent years have you seen or heard of a company’s reviews going up in smoke because of the poor behavior of one of their employees? Putting a policy in place that employees have to abide by protects employers from poor behaviors exhibited by their staff.
  • Accountability. A healthy social media policy ensures internally and externally that the company is separate from the views of their employees. Diversity in the workplace includes welcoming differences in opinion, and a proper policy absolves a company of any responsibility for an employee’s personal posts, views or expression.
  • Expectations. A social media policy should expressly describe what the company expects from its employees, how it pertains to and mirrors the company’s values and how that impacts workplace health and culture. Further, it will outline the consequences of failing to abide by the policy, including possible employment loss and prosecution.
  • Set standards, inform and educate. Good policies speak to the company’s beliefs, how they meet employee needs, how they partner with others and how they manage the employee experience. A thoughtful social media policy sets the tone for how an organization wants to appear outwardly. It informs employees of their responsibility in this process. It also helps employees establish good practices that may be transferable beyond their current employment or even to their personal lives.

How to Develop a Social Media Policy

Ensuring your social media policy is effective and reasonable requires a few steps.

Step 1: Consider the Need

Think about the “why” of the policy. Policies aren’t effective when drafted arbitrarily. You want to ensure that there is relevance to your social media policy. For instance, you wouldn’t draft a policy on safe food preparation if you work in HR, right?

Step 2: Research Legal Limitations

Your policy should be something that would hold up in court or defend the organization adequately if there are claims of unfairness or disparate treatment. Ensure that your policy does not violate any civil rights or protected speech and complies with state and federal laws. Unprotected speech is defined as speech to which First Amendment protections do not apply. This includes defamation or libel, obscenities, threats and harassing speech and other violent language.

Step 3: Define

What does your organization consider “social media?” Before you determine governance, you need to be aware of what you’re governing. Tufts University defines social media as “the means of interaction among people in which they create, share and/or exchange information or ideas in virtual communities and networks.” Per Investopedia, social media is a “digital technology that facilitates the sharing of content…through virtual networks and communication.” As you examine the need for such a policy, consider what social media means to your organization. Does your organization have a website? Could your employees’ behaviors impact your company adversely? How could shared content aid or harm the business?

Step 4: Assign

Who does what with regard to the company’s social media policy? You need to determine the rules for each role: the employee, the enforcing department or person (normally HR), the mitigation or risk management department (often legal) and so on. Every person who bears some level of responsibility to the policy needs to understand clearly what their expectations are.

Tips for Creating an Effective Social Media Policy

Creating a social media policy from scratch can seem a little daunting, especially with all of the considerations to effectiveness and personal rights. a few tips to aid in getting started.

Tip 1: Keep It Short

So that your policy is digestible, understandable and leaves little room for inference, be sure your policy isn’t lengthy or contain words and phrases that are difficult or irrelevant. You can always “teach” on the policy once it’s created. That allows a deeper dive than being overly wordy.

Tip 2: Use Examples

Once you’ve defined what the business considers social media, it is okay to name publicly known platforms and/or sites. Providing examples like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, etc. by name provides greater clarity. For instance, in the event they don’t understand the company’s determination of social media, calling out a platform serves as a realistic and relatable example.

Tip 3: Ensure Enforceability

As mentioned above, your policy should allow employees freedom while prohibiting unprotected speech. It should be compliant with federal and state laws and not intrude upon reasonable self expression.

Tip 4: Apply to Everyone

Your social media policy should be enforceable to all employees at all levels without showing deference to one protected class (gender, race, origin), or one affiliation (political group).

Best Practices for Implementing a Social Media Policy

Now that we’ve discussed some helpful ways to get going in developing a social media policy, how do you stick the landing? What can you do to make implementing it relatable, doable and an effective part of company culture?

Teach it!

Whenever you introduce a new policy, it’s a good idea to not just roll it out in email. You want to make it a conversation with employees as much as possible. This allows opportunity for open discourse, free flow of opinions and even a bit of vetting to determine its clarity.

Be an Example

What do they say about people in glass houses? If you’re the policy owner or enforcer, it’s a great idea to be an example of what you’re directing others to do. For instance, if a teammate wants to know if content they’re interested in would be harmful to them or the organization, if they follow the content you share as a policy lead, they should have a good barometer.

Survey

Once a policy is introduced, it’s a good idea to survey affected employees to see if they’ve received it and understand it. It’s also a good idea to ask them what they think about it. Does it seem like a policy that’s fair? Are parts of the policy too harsh, too lenient or too ambiguous?

Main Takeaway

Social media is a partner to our lives and provides many great opportunities to grow, learn, earn income, express yourself and share amongst networks. When managed responsibly, a good social media policy values these things, but protects the employee and the organization by setting appropriate standards and ramifications for violations. Good practices deployed on the job often translate into good practices deployed in life in general.
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Amelia Minto

Amelia Minto

Known as “Miss Sunshine,” Amelia is an enthusiastic HR practitioner who believes in leading with love, building relationships, and being a forever learner. Amelia began her HR career as a “Jane of all Trades,” taking on multiple functional spaces for small businesses with government contracts. In constant exposure to human resources functions, she honed her interest in pursuing the field as a career goal. Her career history demonstrates a professional who’s climbed the ranks…starting from the earliest HR spaces and growing with every new opportunity. If you ask Amelia what her strengths are, she’ll tell you “my approach is not traditional, it’s loud, it’s bright…sometimes too relaxed, but what a lack in strategic movement I make up for in interpersonal approaches.” Amelia built her career from Coordinating to Directing maintaining a bubbly spirit with a concentration on ethical principles and leading people-focused management. Amelia began her working career doing freelance art gig work. Her long-term goals include becoming a C Suite leader in an organization where she can help develop and create healthy work cultures, with an emphasis on mental and emotional wellbeing.
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