Social Media. Words that once were not even in our vocabulary are now spoken with regularity in tones ranging from excitement to concern. People view social media as a positive tool to engage with others or sigh in resignation over the complications that arise from it. Whatever your personal take, your employees aren’t ignoring the social world, so as a business, you can’t either.

Today’s Focus: Creating Social Media Guidelines for Your Business

As social media has evolved, so has the business world’s approach to it. Where companies were once encouraged to have strict policies banning its use during business hours and attempting to regulate what their employees said on it, many have shifted their approach to acknowledge that social media is an important part of their employees’ lives and can be a powerful tool for a business.

Now, as Peter Parker can tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. As an employer, it’s a good idea to put together guidelines for your employees to help them understand their roles and responsibilities when it comes to your business and social media. These guidelines, often referred to as an Acceptable Use Policy, will be unique to each business, so you’ll want to take the time to customize yours to reflect your company’s culture and goals.

Ask the Questions

As with developing any policy, start by asking questions.

  • How does our business view social media? With resignation? With excitement? As a waste of time? As a method for employees to express themselves? As something to prohibit? As something to embrace?
  • Is it used to promote the business? Which platforms? Who is responsible for maintaining?
  • Are employees allowed to use it during business hours?
  • Are employees allowed to access it on company-owned devices?
  • Will certain platforms be blocked?
  • If you now have a large remote workforce, is the business’ approach to social media still relevant and practical?
  • How will our company’s values and employee expectations impact or be represented in our policy?

Create Your Guidelines

Once you are solid on your company’s take on social media, draft your policy. Keep it as simple and straight-forward as possible. Be cautious about being overly controlling while keeping in mind some general considerations.

Productivity is Still Important

Anyone who has ever been scrolling through Facebook or “snapping” cute pictures of their cat can you tell you that social media can be time consuming. If you do allow its use during business hours, you will want to include that personal use of social media should not interfere with performance of job duties.

Protect Your Clients and Business

Reference your rules of confidentiality. Employees should be mindful not to post protected data or proprietary information. This includes photos and videos. All too often confidential information is leaked because an employee posted a picture with something revealing in the background.

Opinions are Personal

Unless assigned as the designated social media guru for your company, your employees should not represent themselves as spokespeople for your business. It should be clear when they post on social media that their viewpoints are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of your company.

Be Kind

You can’t prohibit employees from sharing their thoughts on social media, but you can remind them that they should strive to be fair and courteous to fellow employees, clients, vendors or others who work on behalf of your company.

Employment Policies are Still in Place

If they do decide to post about employment-related topics, they should remember your organizational policies, such as those pertaining to harassment, bullying, or discrimination.

Posting is forever.

We tell our kids that what they post will be out there for eternity, but often assume that adults don’t need to be reminded of this. Go ahead and remind. While your employees might roll their eyes at you, and mutter about being treated like teenagers, the reminder might also cause them to try and work out an issue with a colleague rather than rant about the “idiot in accounting” on Facebook.

Guide, But Don’t Violate Laws

Be careful as you draft your policy that you are not in violation of any employee rights. Certain things, such as talking about employment conditions, are protected by law. It’s always best to have policies reviewed by an attorney before publishing them.

Guiding Your Employees in a Social World Lead the Way

Once your policy is ready to go, train your employees. Whether it’s incorporated in your employee policy manual, your technology policy or just stands on its own, be careful not to just set it and forget it. Review it (along with your other policies) on a regular basis to keep it front of mind for your employees.

Also, make sure your bigwigs follow the policies. Nothing will undermine what you’ve established faster than Daryl at reception seeing your company’s President post about her deep love of coffee at 10:02 a.m. when he’s been banned from accessing his own social media during business hours.

Now, Go Forth and Post

Or don’t. But your employees are going to, so don’t cover your head with your typewriter cover and hope that the whole “Facegram” thing is going to go away. It’s not. So take the time to establish your guidelines and help your employees know their roles and responsibilities while protecting your company’s online presence.