Recent research has revealed that almost 30% of UK companies do not have social media policies in place.
Considering how widely-used social media has become as part of both our personal lives and as a marketing tool, it seems an oversight that so many organisations are not advising on what is and isn’t acceptable online.
Not having a social media policy can leave a business open to employees time-wasting, posting reputation-damaging content, and venting their frustrations at their employer online.
Having guidelines in place will let employees clearly know the standards expected of them, and what can lead to disciplinary action.
Clearly state who is authorised to use social media while at work. The people who have permission to post on behalf of the organisation should be trained in online etiquette, and have been briefed on how the company wants to portray itself online.
You may wish to nominate someone responsible to check whether any social media content is appropriate before it is shared with the world.
Make employees aware when/if they can use personal social media accounts while at work. Any policy needs to make the distinction between personal and private use of social media, and what constitutes each.
With personal use, there should be clarity on what employees can say online about the company and their colleagues. Decide what would be considered defamatory, offensive or bullying that would lead to disciplinary action.
If multiple members of staff post online under a corporate account, employees should identify themselves using their initials.
If posting about business matters through their own account, they may have to include a disclaimer stating that their views are their own and not representative of the company they work for.
It may seem like common sense, but part of the policy should remind employees not to publish confidential conversations or material online. Relevant legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and the General Data Protection Regulation should be adhered to at all times, as should rules on intellectual property.
If employees are unsure whether something is appropriate to share, they should ask a manager or whoever is in charge of social media communications before doing so.
Remind employees that they need to avoid personal comments, ethnic slurs, obscenities or inflammatory subjects such as religion and politics when communicating on social media. After all, they are representing their employer and acting on their behalf.
Any mistakes or faux-pas should be accounted for, corrected and deleted where appropriate. Better still, they should be avoided.
It’s worth mentioning in the policy that the organisation has the right to monitor social media activity.
Any social media policy should advise on online security. Businesses now need to be vigilant against risks such as phishing and data breaches. The policy should include:
How to create secure passwords
Keeping software up to date
How to identify and avoid scams and threats
Who to inform about breaches or attacks
Finally, make sure that the policy can be easily found in your company’s employee handbook and communicated to those who’ll need to abide by it.