A thorough social media policy for employees needs these four components to succeed:
Make it clear to employees what’s off limits – customer information, product development details, proprietary formulas, images of your manufacturing facilities, etc. Forbid posting about anything that you want held in confidence inside your building. Depending on the nature of your business, this could also include the types of things that employees tend to regularly post about such as team building events as well. If you have a reason to keep it secret, put it on the social no-no list.
But don’t just stick this in a document that employees are expected to sign when they’re hired. Reinforce it on an ongoing basis by mentioning it verbally and in emails at times when employees might be tempted to forget what they’ve read in the policy. For example, if you’re having a Q&A session between employees and your CEO, politely remind employees before it begins that the items being discussed are confidential and should not be shared outside of that room.
You may want to consider setting restrictions on what employees can post socially as well. For instance, if you provide professional or medical services, you might decide to ban employees from posting crude, hateful, or provocative messages and images because of the brand damage that could result. Decide what’s right for your individual business and get employees on board.
Clearly spell out what you want employees to do and disclose. If you’re going to require that employees disclose their company affiliation in their social media bios or put a disclaimer that their views are their own, tell them that upfront so that you’re not playing catch up later. It’s easier to get a handle on something from the beginning than it is to clean up after there’s an issue.
Again, you can set any expectations you’d like, just be consistent and enforce your policies so that employees know what to expect. Always tailor your expectations to your specific business (your industry, your brand persona, etc.) to align your employees’ social media activities with your own corporate social media efforts.
UPDATE: A reader sent us this feedback about corporate social media expectations, so we wanted to share it publicly...
"Great Post! It’s also something to consider that when you post that you need to not run afoul of FTC guidelines. For instance if I posted about Dell while I worked for Dell I had to tag the post #IWork4Dell to disclose that I was being compensated indirectly for an endorsement or comment on Dell products. We were also supposed to do the same if it was a post related to a direct competitor or partner."
Encourage Responsible Use
A great social media policy shouldn’t be a list of prohibited actions. It should also remind employees of the great ways that they can use social media responsibly to enhance your brand image. Elaborate on how you’d like to see employees using social media to attract new customers, candidates, and business partners.
You may want to highlight employees who do a great job of using social media properly to provide other employees with an example to model. This encourages employees to give careful consideration to their social media usage and recognizes the employees that go above and beyond.
Letting your employees do the bulk of your social media work for you is a wonderful way to enhance your online presence organically. (It’s also free!) If your employees have large networks and are active on social media, it’s easier to get your stuff to gain traction.
Make it Easy
The biggest barrier to getting employees to adhere to a social media policy is ease of use. A policy that’s difficult to understand or hard to follow will turn employees off, deterring them from participating at all. To avoid this, make your policy as easy to follow as possible.
Official company posts should always be safe, which means that encouraging employees to share them is an easy way to expand your reach. Put your own posts on the safe list and ask all employees to follow your accounts to inspire easy sharing.
Provide pre-written messages, photos, and links that employees can post as is if they’d like or tweak to customize before posting. This makes their job easier by taking the guess work out of posting and lets you control the messaging.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!