8 tips to craft a sensible corporate social media policy

Be clear and concise, solicit employee feedback and provide specific examples of good and bad behaviors.

Social media platforms can be a blessing or a curse for organizations.

How can you reap the connectivity and collaboration rewards of social media and avoid unwanted pitfalls, confusion, distractions or crises? Creating a comprehensive, concise and practical social media policy is a smart place to start.

Of course, you can’t control everything employees say or do on social media. However, by creating official guidelines, you can set clear expectations for employee conduct. This protects you as an employer, and it also helps workers avoid costly mistakes that could harm their reputation—or even derail their career.

Here are eight tips to keep in mind before creating and distributing a corporate social media policy:

1. Define social media.

Different people have different takes on what constitutes “social media.” Facebook and Twitter are obvious examples, but there are loads of online forums, blogs, chat platforms and video sharing sites that are more ambiguous.

Rather than leave it up to individual interpretation, clearly outline which social media platforms, websites or apps you are referring to throughout your document.

2. Differentiate between professional and personal use.

Your code of conduct for employee-owned accounts versus branded company accounts will likely vary. For example, your employee’s personal Twitter feed might be filled with questionable sports commentary, but you wouldn’t want dubious hot takes on one of your company accounts.

Create separate—and specific—guidelines for company accounts and employee-owned accounts.

3. Be clear.

Keep your policies simple and easy to read. Avoid jargon, and clearly define which rules you want your employees to follow. Don’t leave anything up to the reader’s interpretation.

Keep it short, clear and concise.

4. Provide examples.

Rather than focusing on what employees shouldn’t do, create a policy that encourages responsible social media engagement.

Provide clear examples of how employees should conduct themselves on social media. Answer the following questions:

  • What types of information can employees share?
  • What tone of voice should employees use to share company news or content?
  • What are the guidelines for answering customer complaints or questions?
  • What are the guidelines for tagging company accounts on social media?

Practical tips and real-world examples can spur employees to use social media as a positive tool for your organization. Your employees can be your biggest advocates, but employers often miss out on positive promotional potential due to fear or lack of trust. Empower your staffers by offering plenty of specific examples of the content you’re looking for.

5. Review misconduct and subsequent consequences.

It’s important to focus on the positive uses of social media, but you should cover misconduct, too. Start with the following areas:

  • Legal risks. An employee’s lapse of judgement can land your company in legal trouble. Your policy should include information about sharing private or confidential material, crediting sources and any other important legal considerations.
  • Security risks. Scams and phishing attempts can seriously compromise your organization’s security. Provide best practices for identifying suspicious messages across all social media channels.
  • Inappropriate conduct. Anything controversial, vulgar or offensive can damage your brand—even if the offending employee isn’t using a company profile. Don’t leave anything up to interpretation. Explain what types of activity your company considers inappropriate.

Also, be sure to clearly outline any consequences your employees might face should they violate any policies.

6. Request employee input.

Unfair or unrealistic policies can harm your culture. Your employees are checking social media during the workday, regardless of the guidelines you set.

To craft a more reasonable, employee-centric set of policies, involve workers during the creation of your social media rulebook. Ask for feedback, clarify areas of concern or confusion, and explain the reasoning behind each part of your policy.

Corporate social media policies cover a wide range of issues, including security, compliance and branding. Be sure to consult any relevant executives and department heads before completing your policy. The more people you involve, the better, broader insight you’ll get.

7. Distribute your policy.

Once you finalize your corporate social media policy, be strategic about how you send it out. Be mindful of your employees’ technology tastes, and consider how your people prefer to consume content.

Also, include your policy in your onboarding process, and publish it in a public area or forum that’s easy to access.

8. Revisit and revise your policy.

Social media is constantly evolving. New platforms emerge, and old platforms add new features that might require a different approach.

Your social media policy should change with the times. Assess your guidelines regularly, and make edits to account for technological updates, trends and new regulations.

Above all else, make sure your policy is clear, thorough and fair. The idea is to create a document that’s helpful, engaging and uplifting for your team.

Becca Chandler is a marketing content specialist at ZoomInfo, a business information company that helps organizations accelerate growth and profitability.

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