How to Develop a Corporate Social Media Policy

corporate social media policyIt’s 2017 – by now, social media has infiltrated every aspect of our lives; whether we’re documenting our commute via Facebook live, sharing our latest culinary find with our Instagram followers or simply keeping up with the latest headlines on Twitter, there is hardly a time when we aren’t connected to a social platform – even at work.

With the adoption of social networking as a business practice, the line between personal and professional is becoming more and more blurred. So what’s acceptable employee social media use and what’s not? Consider the following (source):

  • 34% of people use social media while at work to take a mental break from their job
  • 27% to connect with friends and family while at work
  • 24% to make or support professional connections
  • 20% to get information that helps them solve problems at work
  • 17% to build or strengthen personal relationships with coworkers
  • 17% to learn about someone they work with
  • 12% to ask work-related questions of people outside their organization
  • 12% to ask such questions of people inside their organization

Do I need a corporate social media policy?

It’s safe to say that social media isn’t going anywhere. While social networking can have many workplace benefits, it can also pose a threat to your company; all it takes is one questionable post to bring negative attention to your entire organization. The solution? A corporate social media policy.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, a corporate social media policy is an agreement signed by employers and employees to govern certain aspects of social media use. Here’s what a good social media policy can accomplish:

Mitigate legal risk. A social media policy protects your company from a variety of legal issues including copyright infringement, privacy laws, HR violations and intellectual property ownership, just to name a few.

Reputation management. Employees’ actions can often be a direct reflection of your company, your brand, and your products. Give your employees the tools they need to make sure their online presence is in line with company goals, morals, and values.

Establish clear guidelines. A social media policy gives employers the opportunity to set clear guidelines for employees. The policy is not to scare employees, but rather to provide them with the information needed to make smart decisions.

Brand consistency. Your social media policy can also serve as a brand guide. Whether your employees are posting from company accounts or personal accounts, it’s important to inform your employees of the appropriate messaging and language they should use to discuss your brand and products. Encourage your employees to become brand ambassadors and join in on the conversations happening around your brand.

Ready to create your own social media policy? Continue reading for our recommendations and best practices.

How to Develop a Corporate Social Media Policy

Although your social media policy should be tailored to your specific company and industry, there are eight general topics every company should touch on.

1. Define “social media”.

Social media is constantly evolving, so it’s important to clearly define what you mean by “social media” within your corporate policy. This way, there’s no confusion and it isn’t left up to interpretation. Keep your definition broad enough to easily encompass any new platforms or online outlets and make it clear that the policy applies to both personal and company accounts.

2. Set clear expectations.

This section of the policy will be unique to your particular company and industry. It should clearly outline the behavior you expect from employees on both personal and professional accounts. Consider the following:

Information—Employees will often have access to classified information regarding product launches, customers, financial details, etc. To avoid a security breach, be sure to specifically state what content they can and cannot share online.

Workplace gossip—Social media is a common outlet for complaints and gossip. If this is a concern for your company, set clear guidelines about what is considered appropriate workplace discussion. This section is more to protect other employees from harassment and to explain the types of behavior that could potentially get them in trouble.

Branding— If there’s a certain way you want employees to discuss your product or brand—define that here. For example, some companies require employees to use their twitter handle when tweeting about the brand. Some companies require all employees to put a disclaimer in their social media bios, stating that all opinions are personal and not the opinions of their company.

3. Provide resources.

Your social media policy should provide your employees with the resources they need to be professional and appropriate when representing your brand on social media. This might include logo files, approved images, or scripted responses for certain situations. This section should also include resources for reporting problems, HR violations, or branding questions.

4. Establish an emergency plan.

Even the most careful employees make mistakes. Be sure to explain best practices for different worst-case scenarios. Be forgiving but firm with your instructions. Again, this policy isn’t to scare employees, it’s to protect them and your company.

5. Explain repercussions.

It’s important to trust your employees to handle themselves professionally, but occasionally someone step out of line, make inappropriate comments, reveal private information, or even get your company into trouble. Be clear about the consequences employees face if they violate your social media policy.

6. Review.

After you’ve developed a social media policy, it’s important to review it with your legal department, human resources, marketing personnel, and even a panel of employees. Make sure your policy is legal, practical, and in line with company goals, values, and branding.

7. Implement.

Once you have your policy approved, it’s time to implement it. It should be integrated into new hire on-boarding and distributed to all current employees. Review and update your policy yearly to cover any new trends.

8. Enforce:

As with most initiatives, it’s easy to lose focus and let things slide. It’s important to be consistent with your social media policy. Any lapse in enforcement could potentially result in a social media horror story. Be understanding but diligent.

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