The line between companies and their employees on social media is steadily blurring. Organizations today need a social media policy that at once helps keep the brand’s reputation intact while also encourages employee participation online.
In this guide, we’ll layout the benefits of having a social media policy and give you all the information you need to create your own. We’ll also offer up a few good examples of policies from recognizable brands that you can draw inspiration from.
Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence with Hootsuite.
What is a social media policy?
A social media policy outlines how an organization and its employees should conduct themselves online. This document helps to safeguard your brand’s reputation while also encouraging employees to responsibly share the company’s message.
Because social media moves fast, this policy should be considered a living document—ongoing updates will be necessary. But rest easy, it doesn’t need to be a 26-page opus (take a look at this simple two-pager from Adidas). The goal here is to provide employees with straightforward guidelines that are easy to follow.
Benefits of a social media policy
Whether your company is already well-established on social, or just beginning to build its presence online, all organizations should have a social media policy. Here are a few ways your business can benefit from establishing a social media policy.
Helps to protect your company’s reputation
By clearly explaining to your employees how best to represent the company online—including what they can and cannot share—you will mitigate threats to your brand reputation. To further help in this regard, a good social media policy will also explain what actions need to be taken in the event of a mistake is made or a company social handle comes under attack (by trolls or hackers).
Defends against legal trouble and security risks
Social media policies can help safeguard your organization against potential legal troubles and security risks by outlining potential threats and ways to avoid them. Your policy should also explain what an employee must do if they should accidentally put the company’s reputation at risk, or if they fall prey to a malicious attack.
Empowers employees to share company messaging
Social media policies can also be enormously helpful when it comes to brand amplification. How? They tap into your biggest advocacy group: your employees. And company messaging is often considered more credible when it comes from actual people.
With clear guidelines, companies can help their employees understand how to use social media to promote the brand. To use your social media policy as an employee advocacy tool, the document should outline best practices for sharing company content on social as well as commenting on online.
An employee advocacy tool, like Hootsuite’s Amplify, makes it easy for your employees to share company messaging with pre-approved social media content. This reduces risks to your company and ensures everything is accurate and on-brand.
Creates consistency across channels
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 using this naming convention: @Hoot[individual’s name]. This makes it easy for customers to identify Hootsuite employees and engage with them.
This part of your social media policy should also address proper use of images, video, and other media. 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 social media policy should include
Before we dive into the specific sections, we suggest breaking your social media policy into two areas:
- Social media policy for the company’s official accounts.
- Social media policy for employees.
While there is overlap between the two areas, there are aspects of both that may require specific detail.
1. Rules and regulations
This section should outline your company’s expectations for appropriate employee behavior and conduct (on behalf of the company or personal) on social media. For example, restricting the use of profanities or controversial opinions when posting about the company.
A few specifics this section may dive into include:
- Brand guidelines: How to talk about your company and products
- Etiquette and engagement: Outline how you want employees to respond to mentions of your brand (positive and negative).
- Confidentiality: Defines what company information should not be shared on social media.
2. Roles and responsibilities
This section should outline who is responsible for specific social media governance tasks. You might want to create a table broken into two columns. The first column would define a specific social media responsibility—brand guidelines, for example—and the person responsible for governing that—likely the brand manager—would appear in the second column.
Other social media roles and responsibilities to assign might include:
- Message approval
- Customer service
- Social engagement
- Security and legal concerns
- Staff training
3. Potential legal risks
To help steer you clear of any legal blunders, your social media policy should provide clear guidelines for handling any areas of potential concern. Do your research and be sure to involve legal counsel.
A few topics that this section should cover are:
- Crediting sources: Specify how your team is to credit original sources if they are reposting or borrowing content from an external source (Image copyright, for example).
- Privacy and disclosure procedures: Define what is considered confidential and non-sharable (such as plans for a rebranding announcement).
- Employee disclaimers: Require employees to include a disclaimer when publicly commenting on content related to your business that identifies them as an employee. Typical disclaimers of this kind read something to the effect of, “views expressed are mine and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer”. You may also suggest employees add such a disclaimer to any publicly accessible bio, such as Twitter or LinkedIn.
4. Security risks
From phishing scams to ransomware attacks, social media security risks are, unfortunately, all-too-common. Companies must be hyper-vigilant when it comes to protecting their online presence.
Social media policies can help safeguard against such risks by making employees aware of the threats, how to avoid them, and what to do should an attack occur.
Your policy should provide guidelines on how to:
- Create secure passwords
- Avoid phishing attacks, spam, scams, and other malicious threats
- How to respond in the event of a security breach or attack
At the end-of-the-day, every employee is responsible for what they publish online. Remind your people to exercise caution and common sense whether they’re posting on behalf of the company or on their personal channels.
How to implement a social media policy
Seek input. This policy should be crafted with employee participation. Taking a team approach will help ensure all your bases are covered and that everyone buys into the program.
Focus on the big picture. Social media changes all the time. Don’t get too caught up on providing specifics on each channel use.
Don’t discourage use. Your social media policy should encourage employees to be active on social and champion your brand. Avoiding creating a document of DON’Ts.
Social media policy examples
Finally, here are a number of social media policies—from both the private and public sectors—that you can use to inform your own.
Corporate social media policy examples
- Adidas Group Social Media Guidelines: A concise two-page guide that clearly communicates the key points with a conversational tone.
- Best Buy Social Media Policy: This one-page document does a good job of clearly defining its expectations for online conduct. Like Adidas, Best Buy outlines the bulk of its policy in bullet form.
- Social Media Guidelines for AP Employees: A more comprehensive policy with great situational examples.
- Reuters’ Reporting from the Internet and Using Social Media: The “Is it a hoax?” section proves policies don’t need to be boring. You can create a document that uniquely reflects your brand voice.
- Greteman Group Social Media Policy: a good balance between etiquette expectations and employee empowerment —peppered with humor.
- Shift Communications Guidelines for Social Media Participation: Swift positions their policy as easily digestible top 10 list.
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.
- Government of Canada Guideline on Official Use of Social Media: This federal government policy includes templates and guides.
Social media policy examples for the health care industry
- Mayo Clinic Employee Sharing Policy: Short and to-the-point, this policy touches on things such as disclosures and employee disclaimers. Without reinventing the wheel, it also provides links to organizational policies such as computer usage, patient confidentiality, and mutual respect.
- The Ohio State University Medical Center—Social Media Participation Guidelines: If you’re looking for a way to separate and define your organizational and personal use sections, this is a great example. The policy starts with a clear definition of both uses and goes into a detailed explanation of the procedures and policies that apply to each segment.
Social media policy examples for higher education
- California State University East Bay—Social Media Principals and Engagement Guidelines: Work in post-secondary? This policy starts off with a quick rundown of basic social media principles followed by a more exhaustive explanation of its guidelines.
- Tufts University: Like Ohio State, Tufts provides separate policies for social media activities that fall under its official banner and the personal activities of its employees. The former is quite extensive and covers everything from best practices to individual responsibility.
Hootsuite makes it easy to protect your brand across all social channels. From a single dashboard you can easily manage permissions, approve posts, edit messages, take advantage of compliance and security tools, and more.