Businesses no longer have a choice when it comes to social media—an active presence is assumed. In fact, this active presence is paramount to success, as social media touches everything from brand recognition to lead generation to customer support. The growth of this social footprint, however, isn’t achieved by brands alone, but in combination with employees who use their platforms to strengthen the company’s unified voice. This puts brand reputation on the line, meaning a social media policy for employees is imperative.

Already, it’s estimated that 47% of employees use social networks to connect with customers, and this will only grow as organizations continue to uncover the power of advocacy.  Allowing your workforce to run wild on social media without any guidelines exposes you to the risk of creating a disjointed brand image. In worst-case scenarios, brands face a permanently damaged reputation or legal repercussions when compliance issues are overlooked.

In a world where promotional content is shared 24x more frequently when posted by employees, the benefits of advocacy are great—but so are the risks. Establishing a social media policy for employees helps mitigate this element, ensuring your brand image is preserved with growth.

The Anatomy of a Social Media Policy for Employees

In the past, concerns regarding compliance on social media were handled by ignoring the medium altogether. That said, if you want to access up to 1,000x more traffic and increase conversions for your company, you can’t afford to overlook employee advocacy. Instead, you’ll need to put time, effort and research into developing a social media policy for employees that addresses both your expectations as a brand along with drawing focus to any industry regulations.

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Your social media policy is basically a set of instructions designed to outline how your organization needs to position themselves and their messages online. This document not only protects your brand reputation and defends potential legal repercussions, but it also simplifies the process by enabling team members with resources to post messages consistently and responsibly.

Often, the key to an effective social media policy is recognizing that first, no two businesses or industries are the same. The rules that regulate healthcare are entirely different than those that overlook financial institutions. Second, you’ll need to update your guidelines as regulatory measures evolve—this should be an organic document, not one that remains static and outdated. The goal is to provide your employees with simple and effective guidelines that are easy to access and follow.

The Benefits of an Effective Social Media Policy

Ultimately, whether you like it or not, your staff are going to be active on social media.

The choice you have to make as a brand is whether you’re going to give your employees the guidance they need to use their social activity to benefit your brand or risk the repercussions that come with a lack of awareness.

Your social media policy, whether it’s a two-page document or a frequently-updated web page, will be the code of conduct that sets the standard for everything the people related to your brand share and say on social media.

Protect Your Company Reputation

Perhaps the most obvious reason you should implement a social media policy for employees is that it ensures people know exactly how to engage with potential customers online. Any employee conducting themselves negatively reflects on your brand, making it harder for your company to grow.

Additionally, SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) explains that a social media policy for employees can safeguard sensitive data from online scams and hackers when people know exactly which information can and can’t be shared.

For example, back in 2015, Chipotle encountered serious legal issues when they fired an employee for posting negatively on social media. The reason for this was because the company’s social media policy violated federal labor laws. While you need to make sure that your employees are behaving reputably online, you also need to ensure that you’re following the right legal guidelines and ensuring you don’t limit any basic human rights.

Establishing a social policy for employees encourages you to check up on the FTC guidelines and protect your brand from a legal perspective.

Encourage Employee Advocacy

Social media policies are essential for effective brand amplification. With clear guidelines, you can help your employees understand how they can use their social media presence to support your brand. Combined with the right advocacy tool, a good set of social media guidelines ensures that your workforce knows:

  • How to maintain the right voice on social media
  • Who should speak on the behalf of your brand
  • Which topics and information are restricted
  • How to set privacy settings appropriately

For instance, Walmart’s social media policy restricts any standard employee from responding to customer complaints directed to the business.

A strong social media policy is more than just a tool for brand awareness, it’s a strategy for business success that helps to empower your employees, reduce your risk of legal and privacy issues and ensure a consistent brand reputation.

Tips for Creating Social Media Guidelines

So, how do you create a social media policy for your employees that checks all the necessary boxes?

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all template. Different organizations will need to address different rules and regulations. A health services team might need to address HIPAA issues, while a financial group might need to build their policy around the rules of the financial industry regulatory authority. However, the following tips can help get you started.

1. Establish Who Your Policy is Intended For

To start, you’ll need to consider the reach of your social media policy—meaning, you might only provide guidelines for people in certain roles, or you might need to implement additional restrictions for people who deal frequently with sensitive information.

Be clear exactly who is affected by the policy and what the policy entails. Some things to consider include:

  • Tone of voice and use of language online
  • Industry standards and regulations
  • Education and training strategies to mitigate risk
  • Security online (for instance, password protection and download etiquette)
  • Employee advocacy best practices

2. Understand Any Potential Legal Ramifications

Many of the problems that emerge for businesses on social media are linked to labor issues. With that in mind, you’ll need to build your social media policy with a strong understanding of how much leverage you have over an employee’s social behavior.

Regardless of whether your staff are unionized or not, they will have a right to discuss their employment with fellow employees. The bottom line is that you’ll need to be careful about the language you use to tell people what they can, or cannot do.

3. Set Expectations for Behavior & Privacy

To refine your social media policy, you’ll need to be clear on exactly what you believe to be acceptable from a professional perspective. Although you can’t control everything your employees post online, you can be specific about which opinions should be kept away from anything brand-related.

Give your group a brief explanation on how the privacy features work on the sharing platforms you implement. Additionally, encourage your employees to separate their professional and personal profiles where necessary.

4. Encourage Positive Sharing

Much of a social media policy focuses on restrictions regarding what your team shouldn’t say or share. If you want your employee advocacy program to be effective, then make sure you call out the type of messages you want your people to share.

For instance, the unique personal insights that your team has to offer about your industry or brand can be very beneficial to your company, as can any reputation-boosting stories that highlight your unique company culture and values.

5. Keep it Short & Simple

Finally, avoid making any vague or blanket-like statements that could leave employees feeling confused. Be completely clear about what your advocates are expected to do in certain situations, all the way from sharing blog posts from your brand, to dealing with PR and customer crises. If your wording is as clear as possible, you’ll find that you’re much less likely to encounter accidental mishaps.

Additionally, remember that being clear doesn’t necessarily mean being long-winded. Complex and exhaustive social media policies are more likely to be ignored, so keep it short and sweet whenever you can. The rules you have in place should be both reasonable and memorable.

Social Media Policy Examples: Connoisseurs of Compliance

The Social Media Governance site offers a complete list of more than 300 social policies designed to act as your marketing muse—here are a few of our favorite social media policy examples below.

Adidas

As one of the most popular companies in the sports apparel world, it’s easy to see why Adidas are completely devoted to maintaining a strong social media presence. Of course, with offices dotted around the globe, it’s important for this brand to have the right policy in place if they want to avoid any contradictory statements or dangerous posts.

The Adidas guide is one of the best social media policy examples because it highlights exactly what employees can and cannot do online. For instance, if you’re an Adidas staff member, you can associate yourself with the company on social media, but you need to brand your opinions as being exclusively yours. Additionally, Adidas employees are restricted from sharing any sensitive information from behind the scenes of the business, including design plans and internal operation data.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has a fantastic social media policy that carefully lays out distinctive guidelines for groups of employees within their organization. The thing that makes the beverage brand so effective with their social strategy, is that they customize requirements according to the type of employee in question.

For example, company “associates”, are restricted from responding to negative posts about the brand online. If a lower-level employee notices someone speaking poorly about Coke, they can address the issue by sending a screenshot or link to an official marketing spokesperson who has already been trained to address the matter in the style and voice of the Coca-Cola brand.

Best Buy

Finally, if you want your employees to follow your social media policy to the letter, then the best thing you can do is make it as simple and precise as possible. For instance, Best Buy focuses on making their guidelines as straightforward as possible for their staff, reducing their risk of any confusion.

Although like Adidas, Best Buy allows its workers to associate themselves with the brand online, it also states that disclaimers must be used to free the business from any affiliation with negative comments. Additionally, any kind of “dishonorable” content or slurs will not be tolerated by the company.

Ensuring Social Security with a Social Media Policy

Ultimately, no matter which industry you work in or how big your company might be, it’s safe to say that a clear social media policy is a must-have.

When you implement a social media policy for employees, you provide them with all the resources and guidelines they need in order to properly represent your brand online. This can make it much easier for your workers to support, and advocate for your company.

Social media is growing by the day, and your team is already a part of the conversation. An easy-to-understand set of guidelines could be the factor that ensures your business stays safe within a potentially dangerous and unpredictable interconnected world.