Business owners understand that, like it or not, social media isn’t going anywhere. Using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other similar sites have simply become a part of our daily existence. But, unfortunately, many business owners don’t stop to think about how the social media pages of an individual employee can negatively impact the entire organization.
Why do I need to create a social media policy for my business?
Thanks to social media, employees have essentially become spokespeople for their employer. Whether they embrace this role or not, it’s real and it matters. One disgruntled employee who tweets about hating her job can embarrass the entire company. An employee who constantly posts Facebook pictures of himself falling down drunk or references drug use can tarnish the business’s image and sense of professionalism.
Since each employee does have the power to impact the brand so significantly, businesses should put a social media policy in place as part of a responsible brand management strategy. This means not only creating policies about social media use during the workday and beyond, but also having employees physically sign off on their understanding of this policy. This ensures that everyone is on the same page, and helps to prevent embarrassing incidents from occurring.
What should the policy cover?
The differences between establishing rules to protect the brand and completely oppressing employees are minor, so a business owner must think carefully before putting guidelines into place. Should you punish someone for tweeting that they’re happy it’s Friday? Probably not. Should you discipline someone for going on a rant about a major client? Yes.
Essentially, a social media policy isn’t created to stop employees from using these platforms entirely. It’s simply meant to ensure that an individual refrains from firing off a tweet or a Facebook status without thinking. In order to create a policy that allows employee freedom but still watches over the brand, consider including some of the following points in the guidelines:
- Use etiquette: Just as an employee wouldn’t go up to a manager (hopefully) and hurl a string of curse words at this individual, proper etiquette is required on social media. This includes when discussing the company, its clients, and simply when interacting with other users. No one needs to see a profanity-laced exchange on Twitter, only to find that the writer of the words proudly associates him or herself with the brand.
- Know that you’re representing yourself and the company: A worker should want to keep content on their social media pages clean and appropriate, simply because it’s a reflection of who they are. However, many people do not stop to consider this as they’re posting. The company social media policy should remind employees that they’re representing themselves, as well as the brand, and should keep this in mind as they post. This means no nudity, off-color jokes, or other unsavory material.
- Remember privacy policies: It’s common for organizations to have privacy policies in place regarding what information can be shared about clients. This is especially true when dealing with medical practices. Employees should always keep these policies in mind when posting on social media. If clients’ information is supposed to be private, this means that a user can’t go on a rant that reveals the identity of customers, even if they think they have privacy settings in place. Failure to abide by this rule may cause major legal issues for the company.
- Understand that it’s permanent: Employees should understand that everything they write is permanent, whether they try to delete the post or not. For this reason, they should refrain from going on social media when they’re having a bad day or are angry about a work-related issue. This may encourage them to go on a tirade that they later regret and try to get rid of. As a rule of thumb, an employee should proof a tweet or Facebook status twice before posting it. This gives them time to consider whether they’ll later regret what they’re about to say.
Though it may seem unnecessary or harsh, a social media policy is an essential part of brand management in the 21st century. By putting these guidelines in writing, a business owner is ensuring that his or her employees are properly representing themselves and the organization.
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Amanda E. Clark founded Grammar Chic in 2008. She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and holds degrees in Journalism, Political Science, and English. She launched Grammar Chic after freelancing for several years while simultaneously leading marketing and advertising initiatives for several Fortune 500 companies.