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November 21, 2013

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How to develop a social media policy for employees

employee policy for social media at work

In the early days of social media, it was common to find offices that simply banned employees from using it entirely. That was back when social media was finding its feet, though, and now only the most backward-looking of organisations would blacklist it entirely.

Instead, organisations have introduced social media policies, setting out acceptable usage for employees – a necessary move, especially since so many companies have co-opted social media into their marketing work. There are thousands of people out there who have to use Facebook, Twitter etc., all as part of their day-to-day schedule.

But if you don’t have a social media policy yet, allowing your employees to have unfettered access to do as they please, you could be making a mistake.

Why have a social media policy?

There are lots of reasons. A social media policy can:

  • Help protect an organisation from liability for the actions of its workers
  • Help comply with discrimination and data protection laws
  • Explain issues such as monitoring and how breaches of discipline will be responded to
  • Assist line managers in measuring employee performance

What should it cover?

Well, there’s a myriad of topics a social media policy could cover. Just some might include:

  • Business objectives – probably the most important one. Set out what your company’s aims are for social media – what does it hope to achieve?
  • Acceptable behaviour for the use of internet, messaging and smart phones.
  • A reminder of privacy settings on social media sites
  • Guidance on what can and can’t be said about the company, referencing both business and personal social media use

Get Social – Team up

However, these are just guidelines – the best way to figure out exactly what your company needs from a social media policy is to involve as many people as you can.

Put a team together of people who use social media, or may be affected by the company’s use of social media; key staff from HR, IT, communications and marketing, along with – ideally – your Chief Executive and maybe even someone from a legal background with a knowledge of social media.

Meet, and discuss what you want from a social media policy. Collect input from everyone present and jot down the most relevant points. These will include the points mentioned above, as well as considering legal regulations such as the Data Protection Act 1988 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which covers the extent to which organisations can monitor or record communications.

Then write a draft policy. You might find yourself cross-referencing with other company policies from time to time. Then circulate the result to those at the meeting. Then, later, meet again to go over it before settling on a final written document.

Social Policy Points to remember

That’s about it, but there are a couple of other things you might want to bear in mind.

First is that, although you’re sure to send a copy of the revised policy to staff, the chances are most of them won’t read it. Not all the way through, at least. So be sure to organise social media awareness training for everyone on the payroll to help hammer home the message about their social media responsibilities.

And the second is that social media moves fast. So fast, that your lovely new policy is likely to get quite outdated, quite quickly. Be sure to keep on top of what’s going on out there, and be sure to meet your social media policy team regularly – probably every six months or so – to see if there’s anything that needs revision. Otherwise your staff may fall into an unforeseen trap, and no-one wants that.

Still not sure how to approach your policy? Here’s a catalogue of social media policies from some of the globe’s biggest companies, from Apple to the BBC and Coca Cola. These should give you some food for thought.

Photo: Jon Bee

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