These days, almost everyone has at least one social media account. In fact, as of 2018, 72% of adults in the United States used social media in some capacity. This percentage has likely grown since then, so you can expect most of your employees to have some sort of presence on one or more social media platforms. This is especially true if your company has a younger workforce.
Since a majority of your employees are on social media, many problems can quickly arise in the absence of clear expectations regarding social media use. It may seem reasonable to simply expect your employees to use common sense and good judgment online. However, your employees likely have widely differing beliefs of what is and isn’t acceptable online behavior.
It has taken several years and a ton of effort for your company to establish a great reputation. You don’t want a single bad post or message on social media to instantaneously derail all of that hard work. Therefore, your business needs to implement clear and comprehensive social media policies.
Why Should Your Company Have a Social Media Policy?
A clear social media policy has many distinct advantages. First off, it decreases the likelihood that your employees’ online behavior will tarnish the company’s image. Secondly, a written policy will give your managers cause and guidelines for disciplinary actions when an employee exhibits bad online behavior.
As an example, let’s pretend that an employee shared a very vulgar post on a social media platform. This employee uses their real name on the platform, and anyone could easily find their affiliation with the company with a little digging. The company lacks a written social media policy, so one manager may choose to do nothing about the employee’s inflammatory post. However, a different manager may want to fire the offending employee for the same offense.
Which manager is right? Without proper standards and guidelines, your managers may not know how to handle questionable social media activity. After all, it may be difficult to justify disciplining an employee when they didn’t actually break any rules. This not only makes it difficult for your managers to make decisions, but it may also make your employees feel like they are being treated unfairly.
If two employees are treated differently for the same offense, then the rest of the workforce may suspect favoritism or discrimination. When your employees are dissatisfied with management’s decisions, they tend to put less effort into their work. Therefore, by implementing a written social media policy, your company can protect its image and better manage its employees.
What to Consider When Developing a Social Media Policy
Relevant Disclosure of Employment Status
If your employees are engaging in online discourse about your company and its services, then they may have to disclaim their relationship with the company. Moreover, when your employees engage with posts and content that is somehow related to your industry, you may want them to disclaim that they are expressing an individual opinion that doesn’t represent the company. The Federal Trade Commission has several guidelines regarding product endorsements, so it’s best to keep their recommendations in mind.
Employees shouldn’t post or comment about your company’s sales numbers, secret formulas, schedules, and any information that isn’t fully available to the public. Even the most seemingly banal piece of inside information can severely harm your company in the wrong hands. Your employees should understand that they should always err on the side of caution. If they wouldn’t say something in front of the company’s biggest competitor, then they shouldn’t share it online.
Official Profiles and Customer Service
Your company may want an official social media account to better engage with the public and deal with your customers’ issues. A robust social media presence can help the organization reach a wider audience, but a simple misstep can cause many problems. Therefore, the employees who are in charge of those accounts should have an astute understanding of the company’s policies and general social media etiquette.
Most companies prohibit their employees from assisting customers with their private social media accounts. Instead, they encourage employees to direct their questions, comments, and concerns towards one of the organization’s official accounts. This is a smart move because it enhances accountability and minimizes overall liability. By limiting customer support services to your official accounts, you’re better able to trace, monitor, and provide the best solutions to your customers’ issues.
Every industry is governed by a plethora of laws and regulations. For example, every medical service has to abide by HIPPA and other patient protection standards. If an employee at a medical facility were to release the slightest bit of information about a patient, then the entire facility could be liable. Even if your company is in an entirely different field, you must consider relevant regulatory standards when crafting a social media policy.
General Etiquette and Civility
You want your employees to practice good behavior online. They shouldn’t harass anyone or act extremely crass. Even if employees aren’t acting in an official capacity, lewd or unkind online behavior can still reflect poorly on the company. This is especially true if the company is branded as a family-oriented organization. With this in mind, you should outline some basic etiquette for your employees to follow.
Phishing scams and viruses aren’t just limited to emails and sketchy websites. Millions of fraudulent profiles exist across a variety of social media platforms. Many of these fake profiles impersonate executives, managers, and other high-ranking people to trick employees into giving them information. They also send malicious links that can infect the victim’s devices. Every employee must know to verify who they’re talking to. If there’s ever any doubt about an account’s authenticity, then they should cease all communications with that account until it’s verified.
Crisis Response and Disciplinary Actions
No matter how careful you are, something could go wrong at any point. Therefore, the company should have a plan to deal with a social media disaster. Without any guidelines, your crisis management efforts may be awkward and disjointed, and that could make the situation worse.
Employees need to understand the consequences of breaking your company’s social media standards. If your company already has clear disciplinary procedures, then it shouldn’t be difficult to apply the process to your social media standards. Naturally, any disciplinary action should fit the level of misconduct.
While a slightly questionable post may just warrant a warning, more serious action should be taken for harassment or sharing sensitive data. Clear disciplinary standards will make your managers much more effective, and the company’s employees will be glad to know what to expect. HR representatives can easily attach infractions to an employee’s Zoho People profile to reference during their next performance review.
Remember to Update the Organization’s Policies
The modern social media trend has been around for nearly two decades, and it has changed drastically since its inception. Now, people are spending a larger amount of time on social media platforms, and they tend to take their interactions very seriously. New and unique platforms are released every year, so it’s important to account for these innovations when revisiting your company’s social media standards. If your social media policy mainly concerns comments and messages, then it may not be sufficient to deal with a new video-sharing platform.
Whether or not there are new platforms to account for, your business should still regularly update its social media standards. No system is perfect, so the shortcomings of your company’s policies may only become apparent after some time. Every year or so, your HR representatives, marketing managers, IT workers, and other relevant professionals should come together to review the strengths and weaknesses of your current policies.
If your organization doesn’t have comprehensive social media standards, then it’s not prepared to do business in the 21st century. Social media is ubiquitous in the modern era, and it’s only going to grow. The wrong comment or post could derail years of hard work and ruin your company’s image. With this in mind, your organization needs to devise the right social media policies to keep your employees and brand safe online.