Social media is taking the Internet by storm. Most likely, your company has at least a few employees that are using social media on a personal basis. In fact, nearly half of all Americans are active on at least one social network and two-thirds of those aged 25-34. Developing a social media policy for your organization is an important step for protecting both your company and your employees. An effective social media policy can also serve to create a safe and constructive communication channel for your business.
Here are five tips to use when creating an effective social media policy for your organization:
Tip #1 – Establish a team and learn from others. In order to define a clear social media policy, it is important to include a variety of people across your organization. Get input from executives, human resources, IT, marketing, program directors, and other digital experts. You can look at sample social media policies for ideas and as a starting point for your discussions.
Tip #2 –Define your company’s approach to social media and document goals. As the social media landscape continues to evolve, it is important for your organization to provide a clear definition of what is considered social media. Spell out the rules and limits for what is acceptable and what is not allowed. Use your legal counsel to help ensure policies are fair and protect your company against legal ramifications by the National Labor Relations Review Board (NLRB).
Encourage employees to follow established social media cultural values including transparency, consistency, and timeliness. Be sure to document goals and strategies to ensure everyone understands why your company chooses to use social media and what you hope to gain.
Tip #3 – Don’t overlook the big picture policy. Employees need to know specifics about how to effectively use social media. It is important to write out guidelines or policies on how to work with different social utilities such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but don’t forget about the big picture. The social media environment is constantly changing and you don’t want your policy to quickly become out of date. Make sure your company establishes an overall social media policy that defines roles, responsibilities, legal issues, brand usage, purpose, and values that can be applied to any social media site and then create separate guidelines, if needed, for dealing with specific social utilities.
Tip #4 – Leverage company policies already in place. Chances are your company has already established policies that protect proprietary and confidential information. Take advantage of the work that has already been done and reiterate these rules in your social media policy. Give concrete examples of internal policies that cover privacy issues and photo, Internet, and mobile usage to show how they also apply to social media. You should also remind employees that government compliance with regulations like HIPAA and fair employment laws must be maintained when using social media.
Tip #5 – Clearly spell out consequences and disciplinary procedures. A policy is a course of action. After you have clearly defined what social media is, and how employees are expected to use it, you must spell out what happens if these rules are not followed. And be specific. You can prevent problems before they happen by ensuring that all employees have a copy of your social media policy. Provide training and education about Internet safety and company policy. Consider having a contact person who can be available to answer questions about social media issues. Add social media training to your corporate compliance training program. With the proper knowledge and understanding, your employees can act as partners to build and protect your company’s online reputation.
After your social media policy is in place, make sure you continue to review the policy on a regular basis. Gather your team and ask questions: Is this still relevant? Have any new issues come up? Are there new laws we need to follow? Always provide education and training to new employees and refresher courses to existing employees as the social media landscape evolves. An effective social media policy prevents problems before they start, supports employees, and provides a valuable communication channel with customers.