When we think of policy what comes to mind first are company procedures or perhaps HR policy manuals. Until recently few have considered the need for social media and website use policies regarding website content, blogs, social media content, and employee conduct on social networks.
The size of your organization and scope of your social media program will determine whether you need a comprehensive social media policy or if a simple and informal set of social media guidelines will suffice.
Developing a Social Media Policy
Developing a social media policy requires careful consideration. Social media policy is still emerging and there are no real standards to follow. In addition, labor law and business law in this area has yet to be clearly defined. It is important to clearly distinguish between company social media properties and business/company use versus employee personal use of social networks. Your organization’s social properties should be branded and clearly associated with your company and likewise, employee social media accounts should be personal and completely separate. In general it is a bad practice to use employee personal social media accounts for business purposes as you have little if any control over what is said there (see below). Likewise, if the social media account is registered by the employee under their name and email address they own that account and you may not be able to gain control over the account should they leave your company – see our blog Who Owns a Twitter Account.
A very important ruling that must be considered in both establishing your social media policy as well as HR policy is from the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) regarding personal use and comments on personal social networks such as Facebook. The NLRB has clearly stated that employers may not restrict free speech on social networks. Thus in developing your social media policy both you must consider both company policy objectives and possible labor law implications, as well as the affect on employee morale.
10 Things to Consider in Developing Your Social Media Policy
- Tone and style of discussion on company owned social media, blogs, and websites.
- Crisis response: Who will respond and how will the response be handled in the event of a crisis?
- Customer Complaints: How will your company respond to customer complaints or rants on social media?
- Copyright: Explain copyright use on company websites, blogs, and social networks; e.g. ensure that pictures and images used are properly licensed and explain use of copyright text.
- Use of Company logos and trademarks: Explain appropriate use of company logos and trademarks, what approvals are required, etc.
- Use of personal social networks on company computers and company time: Define your policy toward use of company computers to access personal social networks.
- Define authority levels: What authority do employees have when interacting with customers via social media?
- What is expected: Define what your goals are expectations are for company social media use.
- Personal Social Media Use: Explain that employees use of personal social networks may not use company trademarks, must not imply that they represent the company, and must clearly state that the comments and opinions are there own.
- Confidential information and Privacy: Explain the need to protect private information (e.g. customers private information) as well as how confidential company information must be treated.