Having certain boundaries in place is a good idea for any organization, especially when it comes to social media. A social media policy can help empower your employees with information and keep your brand safe. This living document, created by a company and for employees, includes best practices, guidelines, and procedures on training and enforcement.
Why does my business need a social media policy?
Protect your company’s reputation
A social media policy lowers your risk of legal issues and helps protect your brand by outlining potential risks and the steps to take in the event of a misstep or account hack. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting your brand.
Set standards for employee use
A social media policy gives you the opportunity to establish clear guidelines and expectations for employees. With a policy in place, employees can feel empowered to exercise creativity and show their personalities without having to worry that what they’re sharing on social media could negatively impact their career.
Your employees may not understand what is and isn’t appropriate to say online—deciding instead to post nothing at all. Your business can benefit from the engaging social media presence of your employees—a social media policy helps that happen.
Create consistency across channels
You’ve worked hard to establish your company’s voice, but one inappropriate or off-brand social media post can put this in jeopardy.
Use your social media policy to outline expectations surrounding brand voice and tone. Having a strong brand voice is beneficial to your business as it increases awareness, showcases personality, and helps users connect with your business.
If you have public facing employees, you also need to make sure they are aware of any brand standards regarding the appearance and tone of their social media accounts. For example, you may want your employee’s Twitter handles to include a reference to your brand.
At Hootsuite, we encourage employees who interact with the public on behalf of the company to create a Twitter handle following the format of @Hoot followed by their name. This creates consistency and makes it easy for customers to identify Hootsuite employees and engage with them.
This part of your social media policy should also address image use. If your business calls for images being shared on social media to remain consistent with brand voice, you need to outline these requirements in your policy.
What your corporate social media policy should include
Rules and regulations
The two areas you need to cover in your policy are how employees are expected to use their own social media accounts and how your company uses its owned channels.
Lay out clear expectations surrounding appropriate behavior and any company-specific rules. For example, if you are an international beverage company with various brands, explain how your employees should speak about each brand on social media.
Other rules and regulations to cover include:
- Accountability, such as whether you require employees to have an “opinions are my own” disclaimer on their social media profiles
- Guidelines for overall conduct, like “act respectfully,” or “be the solution, not the problem”
- Confidentiality, such as what your business’ policy is on product releases and company news
- Branding and how to talk about specific products
- Engagement procedures, including how you want employees to react if they see negative content regarding your brand
- Online etiquette guidelines such as how to respond to complaints respectfully
Definition of roles
You have a much higher chance of your social media policy being successful if you can establish everyone’s roles prior to the implementation. Your employees need to be clear on who is taking ownership of the social media policy and all of its elements.
For example, someone in HR might be responsible for the training and education surrounding the policy, and your brand director will cover the branding guidelines.
The role-defining portion of your social media policy should explain who is responsible for what.
Basic areas where you need to define roles include:
- Branding guidelines
- Social media post approval processes
- Online customer service protocols
- Safety and security
- Legal issues
- Implementation, training and education
- Maintaining an up-to-date social media policy
Potential legal issues
The last thing any company wants to deal with are legal issues. To ensure you’re creating an airtight policy, this is a section best tackled with the help of your legal team.
Whoever has access to your social media accounts must credit original sources if they are reposting or borrowing content. Research other areas of legal concern that might be relevant to your business’ social media policy in your geographical area. Beyond copyright laws, this might include things like privacy concerns and rules around financial disclosures.
In addition to employees posting on behalf of your brand, you need to set guidelines for those who may talk about your brand from their personal accounts.
The best way to go about this is to lay out clear privacy and disclosure clauses within the legal portion of your policy. Make sure your employees know to protect confidential information about your company, whether the brand’s, their own, or your customers’. Even if they aren’t posting from your official accounts, they are still representing your brand.
Safety and security guidelines
Threats such as malware, phishing scams, account hacking, and human error can be avoided with a clear social media policy. There are many risks your employees might not be aware of, and a policy can help educate them on and fill in these gaps.
When building your policy, make sure you’re consulting your in-house legal team, security and compliance department, IT, and executive counsel. Our post 5 Social Media Security Risks for Businesses (and How to Avoid Them) suggests including guidelines on how to:
- Create a secure password
- Avoid spam, phishing attacks, and human error
- Share on-brand and approved content
- Engage properly on behalf of the brand
- Avoid social media platforms’ default privacy and security settings
- Proceed in the event of an attack
Social media policy examples
If you’re looking for more detail on creating a social media policy, the Social Media Governance Policy Database is a great resource.
Here, you will find examples and insight into how companies are actually building and using social media policies.
Corporate social media policy examples
- Adidas Group Social Media Guidelines: a concise, easily readable policy that highlights key points in bold. This is a good example of a less formal social media policy.
- Social Media Guidelines for AP Employees: a more comprehensive example of a policy, with great situational examples. While from 2013, this document provides a solid core format for your own social media policy.
- Reuters’ Reporting from the Internet and Using Social Media: a guideline for internet conduct, that provides brand-specific sections. The “Is it a hoax?” section is a prime example of how they’ve adapted the social media policy format for their brand.
- Shift Communications Guidelines for Social Media Participation: in addition to an official social media policy, it could be helpful to provide a top 10 list like what Shift Communications has done. This list highlights the biggest priorities from the social media policy, in an easy-to-read format.
Government social media policy examples
- New York City Department of Education Social Media Guidelines: if you’re looking for a more formal social media policy, this one is a perfect example. The New York City Department of Education has a lot at stake when it comes to their public online activity, and they don’t leave a stone unturned in their policy.
- Province of Manitoba Principles & Policies for Managing Human Resources: this well-formatted policy includes organized sections, beginning with the document’s intent. It also includes a good section dividing guidelines based on employee official social media use, and personal social media use.
- Government of Canada Guideline on Official Use of Social Media: if you want a template for your social media policy, you can find them here. The Government of Canada’s Guideline on Official Use of Social Media also offers templates and guides to actually implementing a social media policy—something that will undoubtedly save you time and resources.
Now that you have a grasp of what a social media policy should look like, you can make your own and start creating and sharing your content safely.
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