Social media policies at organizations large and small were, as recently as 2012, quite rare. Like telephone, personal computer and email policies of earlier generations they were put in place to guide everyone in the organization through the use of a new technology.
But just as with those earlier policies some businesses and other organizations held out – refusing to commit the time to develop a policy. And just like those earlier instances some came to regret their tardiness.
What percentage of businesses worldwide now have policies? According to a 2014 survey by international law firm Proskauer 79 percent of businesses have social media policies … that means 21 percent of businesses have yet to wake up to the need for one.
Some organizations that do have policies have inadequate or outdated policies.
So what should a good, current social media policy do?
8 Musts For a Social Media Policy
1. Explain the new workplace reality: Many, if not most, employees consider their private and work lives separate, but social media has effectively erased that distinction. No matter how “walled-off” an individual’s social accounts may seem to be ultimately someone, somewhere will tie that person to your organization. Therefore they need to understand that this means anything they post on social media or elsewhere online may reflect on them and the company.
2. Protect your organization’s reputation: A good social media policy spells out what is and is not appropriate for employees to post about their company on social networks. Generally, the policy will state that employees shouldn't write anything they wouldn’t want splashed across the public media. This section may include the consequences of posting unflattering information about the organization. It will also remind employees that anything posted online – even posts marked as private – can, and will, be used against them and their employer.
3. Raise awareness of your organization and what it does: The best social media policies have more "dos" than "don’ts. " They have clear guidelines to help employees understand ways they can use social media to help achieve business goals. They also help employees reflect organizational values in their online behavior and explain the best kind of material to share on social media
4. Outline what's considered confidential or private information: Employees appreciate having clear guidelines about what the organization considers public information about its business and its employees. This section will also describe the consequences for sharing company secrets on social media.
5. Spell out who in the organization is the official voice: Employees need to know who they should refer online questions about your organization to, so they don’t answer themselves. This section designates a company spokesperson and the circumstances under which he or she must be the person answering questions on social media.
6. Discuss the proper way to engage with others online: It may seem like stating the obvious but this section reminds employees that they should be polite and agreeable. If they must disagree with someone they should agree to disagree with others on social media because disagreements can quickly blow up and go viral
7. Educate and train employees: Show them what good social media can do for the organization … and the bad. Use real-life examples to show them what happens when people don’t follow the rules and/or don’t use common sense. This is the ounce of prevention that can get them to think before they click.
8. Remove any confusion about legal issues: Clearly spell out which social media use in the workplace is acceptable and which is not. Explain the consequences of deviating from the rules and if that includes the “up to and including termination” language say it here. This is no time for equivocation.
An up-to-date and active social media policy is as essential today as telephone and personal computer policies were in earlier times. Until people have a lot of experience in social media they are going to make mistakes unless they get good guidance ... the kind of guidance social media policies provide.
What do you think? Is the social media policy where you work up to date and effective?
From Fast Company: Corporate Social Media Policies: The Good, the Mediocre, and the Ugly
From Fast Company: More Social Media Policies: LA Times, Harvard Law, Microsoft and Cisco
Entrepreneur magazine video hangout: Crafting Your Social Media Policy - What Experts Advise
Free Download: Employee Social Media Policy Template