Top Tips for Drafting a Company Social Media Policy

Social media is an effective, empowering and engaging tool for your brand…until it’s not. Don’t get us wrong, we are pro-social media for business, but having a healthy respect for the power of social media is important. And as Voltaire famously said (let’s be honest who we really know it from, Spiderman’s Uncle Ben) with great power comes great responsibility.

Enter employees. They have the power to be our biggest brand ambassadors, but one errant comment could wreak havoc on your brand in a very public way. It might not even be on purpose, but when an employee openly connects themselves with your business, whether they mean to or not, they are representing the brand.

This is why it’s essential to have a social media policy in place, and to understand the rights of both your employees and your company regarding social media use. A big disclaimer here; there are still a lot of muddy waters in this territory and it’s important to have experienced legal counsel review social media policies to make sure you’re keeping your ship on course.

That said, here are 5 key considerations to keep in mind when drafting a company social media policy. And while most of this may sound like common sense…you’d be surprised how necessary it is to call these out.

  1. Get the right people in on the conversation.
    Define who will be leading the charge of drafting the policy. It is that person’s responsibility to collaborate with all key stakeholders to ensure alignment. While this looks different at every company, for example, this process could be led by Legal, HR or Corporate Communications.
  2. Clearly define who is authorized to speak on behalf of the company.
    There should be separate guidelines for employees who are approved company spokespersons and those who are not. Approved spokespersons should have extensive training and understanding of their brand voice that allows them to moderate social media commentary accordingly. If an employee who is not an approved spokesperson chooses to make a comment about the company on social media, that individual should identify themselves as an employee but note that they don’t speak on behalf of the company. They should also note their role in the company.
  3. Spell out seemingly obvious guidelines about simple human decency.
    In an age when bullying isn’t limited to just the playground and happens regularly to people of all ages, it becomes necessary to state to the masses what we all should have learned in Kindergarten. Based on new guidance regarding employee handbook rules from the National Labor Relations Board, here is an example of a guideline to this effect: Negative or disparaging remarks (including posting statements, photographs, video or audio) about company employees, customers or business partners is prohibited.
  4. Use specific examples and avoid blanket statements.
    Because of the nuances and case-by-case nature of comments in this medium, as stated by Social Media Law Bulletin, it is important to refrain from using “…vague, ambiguous and overly broad language that employees could reasonably construe to limit their Section 7 rights.” So, what exactly should you say? It will vary to some extent based on your business, but The American Bar Association (ABA) notes that a social media policy may “…cover both professional and personal use and may include a mix of guidelines, best practices, examples of appropriate and inappropriate social media use and information about where to go with questions.” The ABA further states that common guidelines include non-disclosure of confidential/proprietary information, respect of co-workers, business partners, customers and competitors, as well as statements prohibiting social media use from impeding work responsibilities. An “in real life” example of this: Don’t take a desk selfie with confidential client docs strewn about in plain view (fail).
  1. Communicate the policy thoroughly and offer training.
    There is only so much time in a day, and all-staff training should be held at the discernment of company leadership. Consider if there is an existing training or onboarding process that communication of the social media policy can be woven into. Employees should be given ample time to review and ask questions about the policies before signing a document indicating their understanding of the rules.

Whew! That’s a lot to think about. And this is only one small piece of the digital strategy pie. Not sure how to start baking a digital marketing plan for your business? We can help.