If you are running a business in the 21st century, you’re probably no stranger to social media. These days, social media is often integrated into a business’ marketing strategy for networking purposes and keeping in touch and visible with their clients.
It’s such a great tool in today’s world, however there are many dangers of the use of social media by a business and unfortunately, most business owners sometimes don’t fully appreciate all the things that can go wrong until they’re too late…
There’s a few steps that a business can take to minimise the risk of brand damage in this space and potential misuse when employees are ‘off the clock’. One of those steps is having a social media policy in place for employees, contractors and others to follow.
Having one in place will certainly minimise the risk of it happening in the first place, but also sets out the immediate steps that need to take place if something does happen, in order to reduce any damage caused.
But first, what is a social media policy?
A social media policy is a set of rules which details your business’ social media use. Depending on the size and activities of your company, it also determines how your employees use social media in their personal time.
Social media policies help protect your business’ online reputation and will also ensure that your business’ use of social media remains consistent across all your employees.
Now that we’ve got the basics down, it’s time to cover what you should be including in your business’ social media policy. Here is a list of questions to answer when drafting up your social media policy.
Who should your social media policy apply to?
Who you are applying your social media policy to is one of the first things you must decide when creating your business’ social media policy. In most cases, the policy should apply to all your business’ employees as well as other involved professionals (such as contractors and previous employees).
Not only should you determine who your social media policy applies to, you should also decide on when it applies.
For example, you may prefer to have your social media policy in place even during employees’ personal hours. Protecting the reputation of your business online is crucial so make sure to correctly highlight these terms of conduct in your social media policy.
How will you control your social media accounts?
It will also be important to consider how you will be controlling access to your business’ social media accounts. As social media will be integral in helping your business build an online presence and connect with potential clients, you should only have a select few individuals managing and having access to such social media accounts.
To prevent misconduct due to excessive employee access on social media, specify who is authorised to use your business’ social media accounts in your social media policy preferably by company position. Also make sure to include that all unauthorised use is prohibited and perhaps consequences in the case that such does happen.
What will be acceptable under your social media policy?
Establishing clear rules of conduct and a standard for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour on your business’s social media accounts (as well as employees’ personal accounts) must be included in your social media policy.
In particular, your policy should specify the following:
- social media posts need to be approved by the business before publication;
- account users must act courteously and be respectful of others’ opinions;
- account users must never engage in discrimination, defamation, harrassment or bullying;
- private information of the business, employees and clients must be maintained; and
- social media account users must not damage the business’ reputation while on social media.
How will you regulate the conduct of your employees on social media?
After determining the code of conduct for your employees on your business’ social media accounts, the next step is to specify how you will regulate it. Common regulation strategies include weekly content reviews and catch-ups with those employees delegated social media use.
If you are planning to regulate your employees’ ‘off the clock’ usage of social media, it is best to simply outline the rules they must follow in their personal time rather than implementing strict regulations.
Keep in mind that although it is important to protect your business’ social media accounts from potential misuse, your employees should not feel suffocated under the limitations you place.
Remember to give your employees relative freedom when it comes to their activity on social media platforms and make sure they are aware of your business’ social media policy.
How will you maintain security of your social media channels?
Another important factor to consider when drafting your social media policy is how you will maintain adequate levels of security on your business’ social media accounts.
Implement proper safeguards so that confidential information is never leaked and that the safety of your social media accounts is never compromised.
In terms of your social media policy, this will mean directly stating that employees and contractors should not share confidential information and drafting serious consequences should leaks do occur.
To provide further protection of your business’ confidential information, you will also need to create secure passwords, limit access to important accounts and install spyware detection software on your digital devices.
How should you respect intellectual property?
Intellectual property may be difficult to decipher when on social media as pictures and concepts may seem ‘free’ for use. However, it is crucial that both employers and employees are made aware of intellectual property rights and never misuse content that exists on social media.
A good way to avoid intellectual property rights violations is to avoid using unoriginal content and to credit images and ideas whenever they are taken from a different source. It is also important to research whether an image or logo is trademarked before using it in your business’ own social media posts. Your social media policy should include such procedures.
Have more questions regarding your social media policy?
Now that you’ve read what to include in a social media policy, it is time to draft, finalise and execute it. You can find an example of what to include in your social media policy here.
To ensure your business’ social media policy healthily integrates social media into your business operations without any complications, it is best to have a business lawyer help with the drafting and reviewing process.
This way, you will know that your social media policy is legally valid and can be applied in the context of your country’s legal system. A business lawyer will also provide you with further advice and answer any questions you may have.