It’s estimated that 68 percent of companies don’t have clearly defined social media policies. They aren’t providing guidelines to their employees to help them understand the relationship between their personal posting and their jobs.
“I’d say there are two broad reasons for having a social media set of guidelines for every company: crisis management or brand opportunity,” said Mario Sundar, community evangelist at LinkedIn.
Social media offers the opportunity for employees to help build the company’s brand, Sundar says, but there’s also risk of individual employees inadvertently damaging the brand. He believes that a set of guidelines can help mitigate that risk.
Writing a social media policy
Think it’s too hard to write a social media policy for your company? Well, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. You can find many social media policies online.
More than 100 policies are available here. You might also check out the retail store GAP’s policy, which has been touted as having an easy-to-understand policy that is clear and succinct.
Mitigating risk for both employer and employee
A social media policy actually minimizes risk for both employer and employee. If you have a confidentiality agreement, you may be able to add a few lines to your employee handbook indicating that it covers employee interactions on social media channels. It’s even better to have a separate social media policy that’s accessible to employees, informing them of your expectations.
Jeanne Meister’s 5 Rs of social media
Jeanne Meister, co-founder of Future Workplace, contributed on Forbes the “5 Rs of social media,” which is a good starting point for companies looking to establish social media guidelines:
- Reason. Simply put: use reasonable etiquette, the same as you would offline.
- Represent yourself. Anonymous profiles lend themselves to more negative content.
- Responsibility. Make sure that what you’re saying is factually correct, and also that it doesn’t violate any legal guidelines that prohibit revealing information that is material to a company’s stock price.
- Respect. What you say online is a permanent record, so don’t say anything online you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to the whole office – with a camera rolling.
- Restraint. Before you hit that send button, pause and reread. If you wouldn’t want that particular thought or contribution forever associated with your name, don’t post it.
Get group buy-in and legal go-ahead
LinkedIn’s Sundar suggests asking your most active social media employees to work with you to develop your guidelines. Not only does that generate buy-in, but it also results in advocates for your policy. He also notes that your policy should include what employees can do, as well as what they can’t or shouldn’t do. And before making your policy official company-wide, ask your lawyer to review it.