If your business has an active presence on social media, you may want to create and implement a social media policy for your company to abide by. Social media platforms provide businesses with reach – reach to connect with and engage their target audience, share their brand mission, and create brand awareness, among other things. With this reach, however, also comes great responsibility. As seamless as it is to share exciting company news or promote a new product, it’s just as easy to post or share the wrong thing and damage your company’s reputation.
Putting a clear social media policy in place will create guidelines for you and your employees as to the type of content your company can share on its channels. In this article, we’ll dive into this idea further, highlighting what a policy should contain, why it’s important, and who needs to follow it.
What is a Social Media Policy?
A social media policy is a company-wide guideline that outlines how your employees should present themselves and your brand on the internet. It reinforces the company’s values, brand identity, and voice, and sets the parameters for what is appropriate and inappropriate to post. The goal being to protect the company’s reputation and avoid a communications crisis from occurring.
Putting this policy together should be a collaborative effort that combines the expertise and input of different critical people in the company, like the social media manager, public relations manager, CEO, and marketing director.
Why is Social Media Policy Important?
The bigger your company’s presence is on social media, the more reach you have, and thus, the more devastating of an impact a negative post could have. It’s not just that a single post can reach hundreds of thousands of people, it’s also that it reaches them very rapidly.
Once you post something, your followers can see it and share it, save it, report it, etc. Even if a negative post is eventually deleted, there’s a level of damage that’s already done. That’s why the best way to protect your company from such occurrences is to prevent them altogether through the implementation of a social media policy.
Additional perks of having a social media policy include:
- Maintaining your company’s identity across all social media platforms.
- Protecting your company from any legal crisis (i.e., employees sending out offensive posts or accidentally letting out confidential company information to the public).
- Providing a guide for addressing a PR crisis, should one occur.
- Encouraging employees to be responsible and mindful of what they post about the company on their personal social media accounts.
What Should Your Policy Include?
Here’s a breakdown of the things you’ll need to address when crafting your company’s social media policy:
1. Who Can Access Your Company’s Accounts
When running social media for your business, one of the first things to consider is the people who will have access to the company’s accounts. Meaning, who will be allowed to post and engage with followers on the company’s behalf.
The expression too many cooks in the kitchen definitely apply here. The more people who have access to the accounts, the more opportunities there are for mistakes to be made. You also want to keep your brand’s voice consistent which is harder to manage if more people are posting from your accounts. Consider hiring a social media professional to be the primary person who manages your various accounts and keeps everything streamlined.
2. The Role of Each Team Member
While you want to regulate the number of people actually creating and posting content for the company, it definitely takes a larger team to implement social media marketing strategies as a whole. Additional roles may include:
- Customer service
- Handling of security and passwords
- Strategy planning
- Crisis management and risk mitigation
- Social media monitoring and listening
- Social media training
Anyone involved with social media work in any capacity needs to know what their responsibilities are. In addition, they should know what their role would look like in the event of a communications crisis. This way there is no confusion or misunderstanding as to who handles what should one occur.
3. What Your Security Protocols Are
If you have social media accounts, you should definitely set up a security protocol to protect those accounts from online hackers. In this section of your social media policy, you’ll outline how your team should maintain your social media accounts’ safety. You should also include the back-up plans you have in place in case a breach happens.
Here are some helpful questions to ask when creating your social media’s security protocol:
- Who has access to your accounts?
- Is there an authorized person to handle password changes? If so, who?
- Do you have a place where you can safely store your passwords?
- How does the person in charge of handling the passwords inform the social media team of any log-in changes?
Answering these questions will help you establish a clear plan on how you’ll protect your social media accounts. Most importantly, you’ll be able to create a list of actions for when things go wrong regarding your security system (i.e., hacking incidents).
4. Legalities to Abide By
Your social media policy should also outline the legalities that your social media managers and other employees must adhere to. It’s one thing when a mistake hurts a brand’s reputation, but a whole other when the mistake has legal repercussions – for instance infringing on a copyright. It’s important to emphasize the legal restrictions and ramifications in your social media policy so your employees are fully aware of the types of activities they should stay away from to keep the company out of legal trouble.
At the very least, your company’s policy should touch on the following legal areas:
- Confidentiality. Consider how your employees can share information over the internet. What things are they allowed to disclose to the public? Which pieces of company information should be kept confidential? Be sure that your employees know what the ramifications are if they violate your company’s confidentiality in any way.
- Privacy. Especially if your business is in the finance or healthcare industry, client privacy is a must. Disclosing any information regarding your customers not only puts your company in trouble but could also endanger the safety of those customers. People over the internet could easily use the information to take advantage and put your clients in harm’s way.
- Copyright. Using any forms of media – videos, photos, graphics, artwork – on your social media or website without properly giving credit to the original source could predispose your company to legal problems. Explain how your social media managers should handle copyrighted material, especially if using third-party sources.
5. Guidelines for Personal Conduct on Social Media
According to Pew’s survey, 40% of American workers report that their company doesn’t have a social media policy. Even if your company doesn’t have its own accounts, you should still have a policy in place that outlines what employees are able to share on their personal accounts as it pertains to the company. They need to know that they are not allowed to share private information or just say anything about the company on their own accounts.
Consider any actions they could take on their personal accounts that could negatively affect the brand. This includes:
- Posting plagiarized content
- Posting offensive or discriminating remarks
- Uploading inappropriate and obscene pictures
In addition to setting the rules, your policy should also outline the consequences an employee would face if they broke any of those rules.
6. Your Social Media Crisis Management Plan
While the purpose of the social media policy is to prevent a PR crisis from happening as a result of actions taken on social media, you should always have a plan set in place should one occur. This plan should clearly outline the roles of different team members in the event of a crisis and provide the actionable steps to be taken.
Sit with your team and try to identify any type of crisis that could occur and create a pre-approved response to each. It’s always better to over-plan when it comes to crisis communications because you’ll need to act fast, should that moment arise. The more details you set in place, the quicker and more streamlined your response will be.
Final Thoughts on Social Media Policy for Small Businesses
It’s worth noting that your company’s social media policy isn’t meant to discourage your employees to refrain from using their social media accounts. Instead, it’s meant to guide them as to how they should behave online because anything they say or do could directly reflect the organization of which they are a part of.
Once you have the policy in place, distribute it immediately to your employees. The faster you’re able to disseminate the information, the sooner you can implement the policy. Finally, don’t forget to review your social media policies on a biannual or annual basis. It ensures that your policy will stay up to date and relevant.