10 things to include in your company’s social media policy

Inflammatory online updates can land your employees—and your organization—in hot water, so set a clear protocol.

“I haven’t slept well in days, thanks to my boss.” (Tweet when your boss is following you on Twitter)

“I am at the pool.” (Facebook update while on sick leave)

Cases of employee firings for social media missteps like the above have been on the rise. Recently, a woman from Connecticut was fired shortly after she posted on Facebook inappropriate remarks regarding her boss.

Recently high school teacher Natalie Munroe was suspended from her job in suburban Philadelphia after she blogged about her students, calling them “disengaged, lazy whiners,” among other unflattering remarks.

According to a 2009 study by Internet security firm Proofpoint, 8 percent of companies with more than 1,000 employees have fired someone for social media actions—double what was reported in 2008.

Let’s be honest, we all know that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are probably the most visited sites during working hours. I am curious whether there is research on how much time employees spend on social networks versus actually working.

Though you definitely don’t want to stifle engagement, relationship building, lead generation and community involvement through social media, you need to establish an in-house policy outlining what’s meaningful and what’s harmful to your company’s brand or reputation.

Simple social media guidelines in the employee handbook and well publicized within the organization can help you avoid heartburn over negative sentiments created by your own employees online. Here’s a good start to developing your company’s social media policy:

  • Be conversational, participate on social networks in a meaningful way, and refrain from saying anything that might hurt your employer’s, customers’ and in some cases even competitors’ reputation.
  • Everything that you post online is visible by all. You do not have permission to share any information that compromises [Company X] policy, management positions and customer information.
  • Please refrain from posting items that could reflect negatively on the company’s reputation including comments or other posts about drug or alcohol abuse, profanity, off-color or sexual humor, and other inappropriate conduct.
  • Respect the law, including those laws governing defamation, discrimination, harassment, and copyright and fair use.
  • Don’t use the company logo, unless specifically authorized to do so.
  • Don’t reference staff, members, partners or vendors without their approval.
  • If you publish content to any website outside and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with [Company X], use a disclaimer such as this: “The views expressed here are my own and don’t necessarily represent my company’s positions, strategies or opinions.”
  • Ensure that your social networking conduct is consistent with the all policies contained in the employee handbook/HR guidelines.
  • Make sure that your online activities do not interfere with your job performance.
  • If you see something that questions your company’s credibility or any customer complaints, alert your PR/social media/marketing team that’s responsible for responding back. DO NOT feel that you need to respond to negative comments online.

Here are some additional resources to help you establish a policy that encourages good, meaningful dialogue while safeguarding your brand reputation online.




Priya Ramesh heads the social media practice at CRT/tanaka, and blogs at The Buzz Bin.


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