Want Social Media Savvy Employees?

Follow these tips for writing new social media policies

All too frequently in today’s headlines we read these words: “fired over Facebook.” Oftentimes, employees post complaints about their employers on their personal Facebook pages. Or they post an opinion on their personal social media page that contradicts their employer’s organizational philosophy. Other employees that have been ‘let go’ due to social media crimes have made egregious errors on their employer’s social media pages.

These mistakes usually elicit reactions, such as: “What a fool!” But are these people really chumps or just drastically ill-informed?

“These situations are so commonplace, many companies adopt social media policies so their employees understand the risks they take each time they post and learn strategies for protecting themselves, their jobs and their employers,” says GillespieHall partner Bridget Paverd.

“On the flip side, by establishing a social media policy,” says GH Director of Digital Clara Mattucci, “you’re also helping your employees realize that social media can be used as a tool for business, not just a social tool. With proper guidelines and training, they have the power to strengthen the business, and their own work, using social media.”

So, what are some guidelines for writing effective, empowering social media policies?

  • Just do what? Some companies make a list of ‘no, no, no’s’ but fail to tell employees what they should do on social media. This mistake leaves a gray area that can cause problems. Be specific about what is allowed. Include guidelines for when employees can use social media during the workday.
  • Yes, you can! Let employees know they can help make their job and the company better using social media. Encourage the sharing of company posts, with honest comments attached.
  • It’s not just sticks and stones… words can hurt, too. Explain the importance of carefully chosen words. Yes, we all have the right to express ourselves. But none of us are exempt from consequences when we make demeaning, inflammatory or foolish comments. Remind your employees that social media posts can be used in a court of law – no matter what privacy settings are in place. Posts can be found, shared, and used against you!
  • Give credit where credit is due. Make sure everyone understands the importance of crediting sources for the information they share. Taking credit for other people’s ideas (intentionally or not) can lead to a lawsuit. Giving proper credit can also build invaluable relationships with other subject matter experts, people and companies that can be instrumental in meeting business objectives.
  • Office confidential. Employees must understand that they can’t give away your company’s trade secrets on social media. It sounds obvious but, sadly, not everyone understands that ‘transparency’ does not give license to share anything and everything.

Many companies post their social media policies online. Some policies are unique to the organization. But others are fairly standard and can benefit any business.

Some common social media policies:

  • Employees can mention their association with a company in personal posts as long as they make it clear they are posting on behalf of themselves and not on behalf of the business.
  • Employees cannot share private/proprietary company information (financial, legal, personal, etc.) to online communities.
  • Employees must observe all copyright laws when posting online.
  • Employees should steer clear of posting about emotionally-charged subject matter, such as religion and politics.
  • Employees should address immediately any mistakes they make in their posts on social media outlets.

How to implement your new policy

Ideally, an introduction to your company’s social media policies will take place during an employee’s first day on the job, also known as ‘onboarding.’ Employees who understand these policies from the get-go are less likely to get themselves into trouble down the line.  Then take the time at regular intervals to go over your social media policies with employees (once may not be enough) and train them as needed.

Keep the policies short, simple and to-the-point. Complex policies confuse, rather than empower, employees.

“One more thing,” adds Paverd, “If your business has a social media department, it will need two social media policies – one for general employees and one for the social media team. The latter policy should include strategy for growing business through various social media outlets.”

And finally… start writing!

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