Protect Your Brand and Employees with a Social Media Policy

By Bo Breuklander

How does a small to mid-size organization encourage responsible use of social media?

A strong brand presence is dependent on all the pieces working together. It only takes two gears moving in the opposite direction to break the machine. Creating clear guidelines of what to do and what not to do is important to operational success. Policies ensure the company and its employees are on the same page.

Why do you need a social media policy?

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, 52 percent of respondents believe employees are credible spokespeople. Without a policy, employees won’t have direction. Without direction, you leave the door open to a social media crisis. The goal should be to encourage responsible use of social media while protecting employees and the company from reputation harm.

Edelman: 52 percent of respondents agree employees are credible spokespeople.

What should be in the policy?

A policy doesn’t have to be a completely negative list of “don’t do this” and “don’t do that.” Fill it with encouragement. Frame it as a collection of guidelines designed to give employees the freedom to participate on social media for your brand. Creating brand advocates should be on every company’s radar and employees make the best ones.

Include reasons why you’re creating the policy in the first place. Provide some background to why the company is using certain channels and who it’s trying to reach. Clarify how the company will manage its branded presence. Set expectations regarding employee engagement.

Here are examples of sections you might find in a small to mid-sized company social media policy:

  • Company presence and official responses: only the social media manager or other designated employees can publish content and responses to company-branded accounts. Employees should not create company-branded accounts without authorization.
  • Avoid communicating confidential information: be mindful of what you post. Do not share customer information, financials, etc.
  • Identify yourself as an employee: when posting or providing a company endorsement in a personal capacity, you have to explain that you are an employee. Include a statement such as “These comments reflect my personal opinion and do not represent the views of company X.”
  • Accuracy and legality of content: every employee is responsible for the content they post. Be aware of copyrights and attribute correctly.
  • Ensure a professional tone: adhere to a professional tone and be sure what you are communicating is compatible with the company’s brand and mission.

Here are examples of sections you might find in the policy about personal social media use:

  • Creation of personal social media accounts: employees should not incorporate any part of the brand or company name into personal accounts. (This depends on the company, of course. The risk here is that the company is not in control of how they appear and it would not be appropriate for the company to ask an employee to change their account. Just avoid this altogether.)