12 Feb 2013

Formulating a (sane) social media policy

Chances are your company already has a presence in the major social media channels. It may not – there are businesses out there that don’t require one, but they’re certainly in the minority. But whether you’re active in the social space or not, you’re must develop and communicate a policy outlining your expectations of your employees and contractors. Here’s how to do it.

Paint the big picture

Social media platforms are ever evolving, and focusing on current specific features or aspects of social networks may well render your policy obsolete in a matter of months. Instead of prescribing specific behaviours and interactions, set more general rules around what kinds of things are and are not acceptable.

Emphasise the positives

In the same way that public relations and editorial placements have a greater reach, impact and credibility that advertising or marketing tools, your employees personal accounts can be far more powerful tools for promoting your company than your official website or Facebook page. Ensure you don’t scare your staff into thinking they can never mention their workplace in their personal social media interactions. Having (genuine) positive mentions of the business on social media can transform your employees into powerful advocates for their employer’s products, brand and philosophies in their downtime. Visible, happy employees on social media will also ensure that you attract better talent when you’re hiring, so remember to specifically mention that your staff can mention job vacancies on their personal accounts.

Respect boundaries

While you should make clear that slagging off the company online is unacceptable, you cannot restrict the content or nature of what your employees post. On their personal accounts, weekend antics, political opinions and personal interactions are out-of-bounds for the company’s policy, not matter how much they might irk you.

Be realistic, maintain productivity

Your IT department simply cannot prevent your staff from accessing and posting on social media during work hours. There are too many social sites in the ever-changing social media space to block, and even if you do catch every single one, your staff all have smartphones. Take a conciliatory approach that acknowledges that social media use if part of the fabric of day-to-day life, while impressing the need for productivity to remain unaffected.