How to Write an Effective Social Media Policy for Employees
September 13, 2021
Creating a social media policy for employees is essential for every employer. Whether you run a small business, lead a nonprofit, pastor a church, or superintend a school, it is imperative that you have a clear plan in place for how you expect your staff to represent your brand on social media.
According to Pew Research, 70 percent of Americans use social media, and the vast majority of those are using Facebook daily. Depending on the age bracket, other platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and TikTok are also popular among more than half of working adults in our country.
Pew also reports that 63% of American full-time and part-time workers say their employer does not have a social media policy in place. It’s more common to find rules about using social media on company time rather than a detailed company social media policy that outlines acceptable employee behavior online.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve been running a blog series on social media management. In this post, we will get specific about how to write a staff social media policy. Because all the branding and marketing in the world can quickly be dispelled by one employee doing something ridiculous on social media.
Every Employer Needs a Social Media Policy
Before diving into this discussion, it’s important to note that we are not a human resources consulting company. Employee policies of all kinds should be vetted and approved by your team’s HR expert, as well as your business attorney, just to ensure that all of your bases are covered.
That said, there is a significant overlap between corporate branding and providing guidance to employees regarding their stewardship of the company brand. Clearly, more than half of employers don’t yet realize how critical it is to have a corporate social media policy in place.
Certainly, there is not a one-size-fits-all social media policy. There will be a varying degree of granularity and detail among different types of business, or depending on if you need a social media policy for nonprofits or a school social media policy.
Our goal is to help all employers understand that having a social media policy in the workplace is just as important to your branding strategy as company logos and messaging. And secondly, we want to equip you with the core fundamentals of an effective social media policy. Lastly, we will suggest ideas on how to adjust or amend a general social media policy within the context of your own unique circumstances.
How to Write a Social Media Policy and What to Address
Consult with your HR department and employee handbook before you begin. Make sure that what you include in the policy reflects the overall expectations of general employee behavior. From there, here are the core elements that should be addressed in any staff social media policy. Keep in mind that these fundamentals should be written in a way that makes sense within the structure of your organization.
Be consistent with corporate policy.
If your business, organization, church, nonprofit, or school has a code of conduct or something similar in your employee handbook, that same code of conduct should be upheld within the context of the staff social media policy.
This really speaks to basic common sense, but how we treat others matters no matter where we work. Some people use social media as a place to vent without regard for the consequences. We can probably all agree that doing this never produces fruitful results. So while this may seem like an obvious expectation, it still makes sense to emphasize this in your own social media policy.
Unless you work in the PR department or are otherwise appointed to do so, it’s very likely that you are not authorized to speak on behalf of your employer in any formal capacity. Many corporate social media policies ask employees to use first-person pronouns and avoid any language that appears to be speaking on behalf of the company. Other companies suggest that employees include language in their “About Me” section along the lines of “opinions are my own.” Bottom line: always make it crystal clear that you speak on behalf of yourself, not the company.
What do we mean by this? Here’s a great example. We know a guy who used to manage interns on Capitol Hill in the early 2000s. Their rule was “never do or say anything in public you don’t want to appear on the front page of the Washington Post.” We think that is good advice, no matter your age. It’s worth reminding your employees that we live in a time when any misstep can easily be photographed or even live-streamed for the world to see in real-time.
This should go without saying, but to ensure you’ve covered all bases, remind employees about confidentiality agreements with regard to discussing internal work matters online. Even if it’s within the context of a private online forum, it is always imperative to keep any and all confidential information off the internet. This also includes pictures, videos, pdf files, and any other internal corporate property.
Be comfortable saying “no comment.”
Employee social media policies should specify who is authorized to speak on the record to the press. Be explicitly clear that employees are to say “no comment” and know who to refer reporters to if asked to comment on the record about company matters.
Why You Should Encourage Employees to Use Social Media
As we pointed out before, many businesses don’t have company social media policies, but many do have social media usage policies. In other words, employers are quick to define how much an employee can use social media on company time (if at all).
This is understandable and appropriate for a variety of obvious reasons. But what may not be as obvious is the unseen opportunity to equip and empower your employees to use social media for the benefit of the company. Here’s what we mean.
Most businesses are already leveraging the power of social media for promoting their products or services, but few are integrating their employees into the process. We agree with HubSpot that one of the greatest areas of untapped marketing potential lies within your employees’ fingertips.
Your staff team may actually be the very best brand ambassadors for your products or services. All they need is training and expectations to be set for how to do this. Yet many employers shy away from encouraging staff to embrace this identity, largely because they want to control the messaging.
We understand this risk. But we also advocate that the risk may be worth it. Imagine a staff team so fully integrated into your branding and marketing strategy that they are regularly engaging on social media with both potential and loyal customers alike.
Businesses that are doing this traditionally leave the engagement up to their social media team. But what if it was part of every employee’s job to be a part of the engagement process? Yes, it would take a significant amount of training and trust to pull this off. However, this could be the big differentiator you’re looking for to help you jump ahead of the competition. Just something to think about!
Do You Need Help Writing a Social Media Policy?
We serve a variety of clients from small and medium-sized businesses to churches and nonprofits. After several decades in the business, we have a pretty decent handle on what to say and what not to say on social media. Furthermore, we can provide insights and guardrails on how to encourage appropriate social media use among employees as a strategy to boost your brand. No matter what questions you have about social media policies or strategies, we are here to help. Contact us and we will schedule a meeting with you asap!