Want to create social media policies at work?
Having a social media policy in place is crucial to regulate how employees can use social media platforms at work.
It’ll also help protect your company’s reputation — after all, just one inappropriate social media post from an employee has the potential of affecting your organization’s business interests quickly.
In this article, we’ll explain why a social media policy is so important and provide some handy tips to help you draft one. We’ll also offer a free template that you can customize with ease.
This article contains:
(click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- What is a social media policy?
- Why is it essential to have a social media policy?
- What to consider before drafting a social media policy
- What information should you include in a social media policy?
- A free social media policy template
Let’s get started.
What is a social media policy?
Note: We’ll first talk about the basics of creating an effective social media policy. However, if you only want the template, skip ahead to this section.
A social media policy is a document that provides guidelines for your company’s social media use. It addresses using official company social media handles and employees’ private social media use.
Usually, a social media policy covers numerous aspects like:
- Who the policy is for.
- Who has access to the company’s official social media handles.
- What is classified as acceptable and inappropriate to post on social media, etc.
- The consequences of violating the policy.
Why is a social media policy important?
Despite the growing use of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. 63% of Americans say their employer doesn’t have a social media policy in place.
This can be a huge issue, as it leaves room for unregulated social media usage at the workplace.
Given the harm one problematic tweet from an employee can do to your brand — what good is it having powerful social media marketing if you don’t have a social media policy in place?
Your social media policy should be an essential part of your social media strategy and guide employees’ social media use, whether they’re a new recruit or an experienced social media manager.
What to consider before drafting a social media policy
Before you start drafting your policy, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
A. Define the what and the who
Clarify who can speak for the company’s brand on social media – and who can’t.
You also need to determine who covers which responsibilities on a daily, weekly, or as-needed basis.
Some examples of the responsibilities to assign include:
- Daily posting and customer engagement.
- Daily customer service related inquiries.
- Strategy, planning, and crisis management.
- Monitoring and listening.
- Approvals (legal, financial, or otherwise).
Note: Your social media policy should also promote employee advocacy. An employee advocate generates positive exposure for the company through their social media (for example, through Facebook posting) as well as offline channels.
B. Seek input from stakeholders
Speak to your organization’s stakeholders, including your HR team, legal general counsel, social media manager, and other employees. These stakeholders should be able to give you ideas relating to your company’s unique needs.
C. Decide how employees will access the policy
Where will you share your social media policy?
Consider including it in your employee handbook so that new hires have access to it right from the onboarding stage.
You can also keep it on your company’s intranet (local, restricted communication network) or shared hard drives so that all employees can access it.
D. Announce its launch
Make sure every employee is aware that you have a social media policy in place. You can either send out a company-wide email or post it on a public message board.
You can also have a meeting with employees to announce the social media policy and discuss it. This will allow employees to ask questions and raise any concerns.
E. Review it the same time next year
Don’t let your social media policy become outdated. Commit to an annual or bi-annual review of your social media policy — mainly because social media sites are constantly changing.
Check regularly to ensure all the details and any contact information are up to date. However, when you update the policy, don’t forget to note the revision date within the document.
F. Ensure that it doesn’t violate labour law
Check what laws are in place to protect employee communication in your specific country and state.
For example, according to the American Bar Association, US companies commonly violate the National Labour Relations Act. While the law was passed in 1935 to protect work-related conversations between employees, it can now be applied to communications on social media.
Under US law, certain social media posts by employees fall under the category of ‘protected and concerted activity’ and can’t be prohibited by your social media policy.
Social media posts that are protected under this law include:
- Collective bargaining and other union activities.
- Discussion of working conditions.
- Conversations about wages.
What information should you include in a social media policy?
Here are some must-have details to include in your social media policy:
A. Details about security protocols
Social media is an excellent way to market your company or agency, but there are security risks. Additionally, employee social media activity will be guided by your social media policy.
Some of the questions you need to ask yourself are:
- How often do your account passwords get changed?
- Who has access to them?
- Is your organizational software updated regularly? Who’s responsible for the updates?
- How do employees escalate a concern?
B. Plan of action for a crisis
Although the whole aim of a social media policy is to prevent a security or PR crisis, it’s best to have a crisis management plan just in case.
Here’s what you should consider:
- Determine whether your security and PR crisis management protocol should be mentioned in a separate document or incorporated into your social media policy.
- Your crisis management plan should include an up-to-date emergency contact list with detailed roles. Clearly define the roles of the social media team, legal team, and PR experts in the event of a social media crisis.
C. How to stay legally compliant
This will vary from state to state and country to country. You should consult your legal general counsel to ensure your social media policy covers all legal bases.
There are two main issues your social media policy should address relating to legal compliance:
1. How to comply with copyright laws
Copyright is the most important intellectual property right applicable to social media.
Remember, not everyone on your team understands copyright laws. Your policy should explain how to comply with copyright law on social media in your country and state. This is especially important when using third-party content.
2. The importance of confidentiality
Ensure that all your employees know how to handle customer information to ensure confidentiality. Confidentiality involves protecting your organization’s internal information.
Employees must ensure not to disclose sensitive or private information on social media. You could also have employees sign non-disclosure agreements.
D. Provide guidance for employee conduct on personal social media accounts
According to Pew Research, only 32% of Americans report that their employer has a policy about how they present themselves online. Additionally, 51% said their employers have a policy about using personal social media at work.
Ideally, your social media policy should address employees’ use of social media at work.
It should encourage employees to use common sense — especially when posting public information on social channels.
Here are a few guidelines you can implement in your social media policy:
1. Highlight what employees may not say under any circumstances
Some of the prohibited posts on social media include:
- Posting hate speech.
- Threats of violence.
- Harassment – either aimed directly at an individual or group or indirectly.
- Racial discrimination.
These may violate your company’s code of ethics but more importantly, they may violate the law and harm your company’s brand.
2. Explain how employees should respond in emergency situations
Employees need to know when not to respond, even when prompted on social media.
For example, employees should not respond to anyone who posts a negative comment or review about the company without first consulting leadership.
3. Encourage professional interaction on every social media channel
Your social media policy should encourage employees to engage in social media activity that improves your company’s professional image.
Ensure that employees understand the importance of representing your company on every social media platform.
A sample social media policy template
Here’s a sample social media policy template to help you get started:
A. Purpose of this social media policy
This is a social media policy for [company name]. The purpose of this policy is to assist you in making responsible decisions about your social media usage.
This policy provides the guidelines for the appropriate use of social media, whether on behalf of [company name] or for your personal account.
This social media policy applies to all employees, both part-time and full-time, and freelancers employed by [company name].
The policy applies to social media activities conducted within and outside the workplace.
C. Guidelines for appropriate social media usage
As an employee and representative of [company name], you are expected to demonstrate best practices and appropriate etiquette on social media, including but not limited to the following:
1. Know and abide by the rules
Carefully read these guidelines as well as [company name] company policy and ensure your social media posting is consistent with these policies. Keep these guidelines on hand and review annually or as often as necessary.
2. Be respectful at all times
Always be fair and courteous to fellow employees, customers, members, suppliers, or people who work on behalf of [company name].
When resolving conflicts with co-workers, utilize company channels, and follow the procedure stipulated by the company’s Human Resources Policy, rather than posting on social media.
If you post complaints or criticism on social media – avoid using statements and photographs/video/audio that could be viewed as obscene or intimidating, or deprecate customers, associates, or suppliers.
3. Be accurate and honest
Always be accurate and honest when posting information or news. If you make a mistake, correct it quickly. Be open about any previous posts you have altered.
Keep in mind that the Internet archives almost everything; therefore, even deleted social media posts can be found.
Never post any information or rumors that you know to be false about [company name], fellow team members, customers, suppliers, people working on behalf of [company name], or competitors.
4. Post only appropriate content
- Maintain the confidentiality of [company name] trade secrets and other confidential information. Trade secrets may include information regarding the development of products, know-how, and technology. Don’t post internal reports and procedures or other internal business-related confidential communication.
- Express only your personal opinion. Don’t represent yourself as a spokesperson for [company name] – unless you’re permitted to do so.
- If [company name] is a subject of the content you are creating, be clear and open about the fact that you are an associate and make it clear that your views do not represent those of [company name] and those individuals working on behalf of [company name].
- If you publish a blog or post online related to the work you do or subjects associated with [company name], make it clear that you are not blogging on behalf of [company name]. You can include a disclaimer such as “The content on this site is my own and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of [company name].”
D. Using social media at work
Avoid using social media while on the clock or on company equipment, unless it is work-related as authorized by your manager.
Don’t use [company name] email addresses to register on social networks, blogs, or other non-work related websites.
Don’t create a link from your blog, website, or any other social networking site to a [company name] website without identifying yourself as a [company name] associate.
E. Consequence of breach or retaliation
Any employee who breaches the social media guidelines stipulated in this social media policy will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.
Any employee who retaliates against another employee for reporting a possible deviation from this social media policy will be subject to relevant disciplinary action.
I have read and understood the contents laid out in this document.
[company name] Representative: ____________
[company name]Employee: ____________
Place of signing:
Disclaimer: This template is only meant to provide a general guide and can only be used as a reference. This template may not account for local laws, state laws or federal laws, and other applicable laws, and should not be considered a legal document. Neither the author nor Time Doctor will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this sample employee monitoring policy.
An effective workplace social media policy is crucial for every organization.
And while there are many benefits to an effective social media policy, there are two that stand out. Firstly, it will help protect your brand image, and secondly, it can help you avoid any legal hassles that could arise from inappropriate social media use by employees.
However, drafting an effective corporate social media policy isn’t complicated.
If you follow the tips and template we’ve provided here, you’ll have a powerful and effective company social media policy in no time.
Carlo Borja is the Head of Online Marketing for Time Doctor, a time tracking software for remote teams. He is a full-time telecommuter, a digital nomad and a coffee junkie.