What should you include in your social media policy?
With social media becoming a big part of your overall marketing strategy it makes sense to help spread the word using the help of your staff. Our article ‘Employee advocacy on social media’ explains some of the important benefits of getting everyone involved but how do you protect your brand?
In a world where everyone is connected, one poorly timed or poorly worded message could harm your brand reputation, but you don’t want to discourage your team from being engaged. By writing a social media policy, you empower your team to create and share content but with the reassurance they have guidelines to only use appropriate content and also have a back-up plan if things do go wrong.
What is a company social media policy?
A social media policy is your business code of conduct, letting people in your organisation know how to act on social media. There are some basic general rules to help keep content safe such as:
- Sharing proprietary or confidential company information
- Posting defamatory, derogatory, or inflammatory content
- Posting information or pictures that imply illegal conduct
However, there are more guidelines that can be built into your policy that not only protect your brand and reputation but can enhance it.
So what should you include in your social media policy?
1. Who can speak for your company on social media
Defining who can speak on the company’s behalf may seem restrictive but it could be as simple as defining only the customer relations team are authorised to respond to a customer complaint, whereas the sales team should respond to a service enquiry.
“The firm uses social media to support our clients and raise awareness of the firm. XXXX is responsible for social media for and on behalf of our firm. No other employee or person is authorised to participate in the firm’s social media activities without the agreement of XXX. Information posted or viewed on social media sites may constitute published material. Therefore, reproduction of information posted or otherwise available over the internet may only be done by those who are delegated with authority to do this on behalf of the firm.”
Guidelines on the tone of voice and brand personality should be given. Confidentiality guidelines – details about what should absolutely not be shared on social media and of course clarification of what will happen if they fail to use the guidelines set out. These should be set out in your employee handbook too.
“Breaching this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Disciplinary action may be taken regardless of whether the firm’s equipment or facilities are used for the purpose of committing the breach. Any member of staff suspected of committing a breach of this policy will be required to co-operate with the firm’s investigation, which may involve handing over relevant passwords and login details. Staff may be required to remove internet postings which are deemed to constitute a breach of this policy, and failure to comply with such a request may in itself result in disciplinary action”
2. A plan for dealing with conflict
The problem with social media is that it’s in real time and things can move fast and things can quickly escalate. We have an old post on ‘Handling negative social media in a professional manner’ but it is just as relevant today. Having some defined guidelines will help to limit the impact of any negative coverage. If someone leaves a negative comment about your brand online, or you find yourself dealing with a disagreement, make sure your employees know how to respond whether this is by applying the response guidelines or referring the issue to those responsible for customer service or even PR.
3. Personal account guidelines in your social media policy
You can’t control what goes on in your staff’s personal social media channels, but you can give them guidelines. You need to educate them on how their behaviour on personal profiles affects your company and how they can avoid conflict. Get them to think about the content they are sharing – is it correct, are there copyright issues and ask them to avoid saying anything negative about your brand or other companies.
It’s also a good idea to include a disclaimer on personal accounts that reminds your customers that your employee is an individual and not a spokesperson for your firm a statement detailing that ‘all views are my own and not representative of XYZ company’.
“The firm recognises that employees may wish to participate in or use social media for personal use. No employee must in any way bring the firm, its staff, its existing or prospective clients or third-party individuals/entities connected to the firm into disrepute or publish any information, particularly anything confidential or sensitive, relating to them when participating in, using or publishing content on any social media site or channel. Any breach of our social media rules or guidance will be considered a disciplinary matter to be dealt with through our disciplinary procedures”
4. Legal risks to consider
One of the most common legal risks is sharing copyright material. You need to make sure employees know how to credit sources, especially with images.
“Staff must not use the firm’s logos, brand names, slogans or other trademarks, or post any of the firm’s confidential or proprietary information without prior written permission. In order to protect individuals and the firm against liability for copyright infringement, where appropriate, sources of particular information posted or uploaded must be accurately cited. If there are any questions about whether a particular post or upload might violate copyright or a trademark, XXX must be consulted before making the communication.”
Even with the use of a disclaimer on personal social media accounts you may not be safe. Let your staff know what a disclaimer means when they use it online, even if someone states that their opinions are their own, you may be seen to be guilty by association.
Check what regulations apply to your industry. If there are advertising restrictions on your services these will apply to social media too. Outline any rules that may be associated with your industry, this is particularly the case for financial or legal services.
Keep you online presence safe. Decide on what level of security you require. Make sure passwords are kept secure and updated frequently. Passwords should be changed when staff leave. Careful monitoring of the digital landscape to make sure no brand cloning is taking place by unscrupulous scammers. Make sure staff know who to contact and how to respond if they suspect a security breach has taken place or if an account has been hacked.
It may sound counter intuitive but the more guidelines you include in your policy the more empowered your staff will be, and a greater amplification of your social voice will be achieved.
Need help with your social media? Check out our social media management services or contact us on 01903 530787.