Establishing a Social Media Policy

Most people are familiar with and use social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to communicate with friends, to network and connect with people, and for entertainment purposes. It is highly likely that many people use these sites while at work. In addition, many businesses are taking advantage of these social media tools to get information out to the public and to create awareness about their brands.  While social media can offer some great benefits to your business, it can also be a detriment.  Therefore, it is important that your company establish, maintain and enforce a social media policy.

Several major concerns illustrate the need for a business to establish a social media policy. These include, among others, protecting the company’s image in the community, safeguarding confidential or proprietary information and making sure the company is in compliance with various laws including those regarding employee privacy. Developing and implementing an effective social media policy can alleviate most of these concerns.

A company’s social media policy should include several key components.  Essentially, it should set out what an employee can and cannot do while at work, establish guidelines to be followed by employees while at work and when posting work-related information and updates on social media sites, and provide for compliance with privacy and other legal restrictions. In addition, the policy should provide for training and a process for reporting issues and violations.

An example of an issue that can damage your company occurred on the Chrysler Twitter account. In 2011, a person with access to Chrysler’s Twitter posted a tweet using inappropriate and unprofessional language. Certainly, potential customers were offended and perhaps sales were lost.

An effective social media policy would help deter situations like this from occurring. A well-written, understandable policy should limit access to a company’s official Twitter account to one or two trusted professionals.  It is also important that employees understand that they should not use a company’s name or logo in their username or on their Facebook or Twitter page.

A social media policy, regardless of how thorough and clear it may be, is useless if it is not enforceable. Thus, it is vital that it is not in violation of privacy laws, overbroad and does not infringe upon legally protected activities.

As the use of social media becomes more prevalent in the business community, companies need to be prepared to deal with all of the implications and potential issues that may arise. Employees must be made aware that their actions can negatively impact the business and that there are limits on what they should be sharing with others on public forums. A social media policy tailored to your company’s specific needs will help you avoid unnecessary harm.