16 essential elements of employee social media guidelines

Here’s how to establish iron-clad rules for acceptable online behavior—and head off disaster.

Social media guidelines

We are rerunning the most-viewed articles of 2019. This was one of the top five most-popular social media articles of the year.

Social media guidelines should protect your organization and your employees.

Establishing clear, concise boundaries for acceptable online behavior can help prevent crises, and it should increase your team’s willingness to share company content.

So, what belongs in your social media guidelines? Start with these 16 elements:

1. Opening paragraph 

Briefly outline why you’re encouraging employees to actively participate on social media. Reinforce that the guidelines are there to help protect them and the organization.

Explain why and how employees can benefit from being online ambassadors. Remind colleagues that their voice matters, and that they’re far more influential than any “influencers” could ever be. Hammer home the notion that employee advocacy is perhaps the most potent recruiting tool the company has.

2. Confidentiality

You want employees to speak freely, but make sure they are aware of potential confidentiality conflicts. Clarify what sorts of sensitive customer- or company-centric content should not be posted online. Include a bit about not disclosing financial or legal information around customers or clients.

3. Copyrights

Nobody wants a lawsuit over a Facebook post. Offer a brief recap of copyright rules pertaining to pictures, videos or other intellectual property to avoid any unnecessary litigation.

4. Kindness (and common sense)

You probably have at least one staffer who enjoys pushing the envelope online. Make sure employees are crystal-clear on what’s out of bounds. Of course, any disparaging or bawdy racial, ethnic, religious or sexual content should be avoided.

Politics is another hot potato most won’t want to touch, though research continues to show that consumers appreciate companies that take a stand.

5. Passion, but not anger

That escalated quickly, didn’t it?

Remind employees: Spirited discussions are fine—digital fights and insults are not. Include examples of how employees should respond to online trash talk, trolls or criticism. Provide examples of what’s OK and what is definitely not acceptable.

If you have a code of conduct for workplace behavior, reinforce the notion that the rules apply to online activity, too.

6. Genuine personality

Encourage employees to be conversational and genuine on social media. If your colleagues communicate like robots, your advocacy campaign will flop.

Instead of compelling employees to mindlessly share links or canned statements, empower them to speak in their own unique voice. Encourage them to start discussions and to actively build their personal networks.

7. Being helpful

One great way to connect with audiences is to share helpful, useful content. Provide examples of content that answers questions, solves problems or somehow makes people’s jobs or lives easier. Prioritize how-tos, explainers and helpful resources.

Customers are quickly turned off by mindless marketing megaphones.

8. Correcting mistakes

If you make a mistake online, try to rectify it quickly. Don’t let it fester or spiral out of control. Apologize, own it, and don’t repeat the error.

9. Pumping the brakes before responding

We all do rash things in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, the internet never forgets.

Encourage employees to wait a minute—or several hours—before responding to a questionable post or making a joke. You might link to a cautionary tale or two to remind staffers of what could happen.

10. Respecting privacy

Not every colleague or customer wants to be featured online—in any capacity. Before you go tagging anyone, ask permission before you post.

If your organization holds events, be careful about posting photos at random. Always ask permission.

11. Following the organization

Encourage employees to follow your company’s social media channels. This facilitates content sharing, and it helps to keep everyone informed and on the same messaging page.

12. A contact person

Employees may come across conversations that require a more delicate touch. List point people who should handle media requests, influencer requests, upset customers or other tricky situations.

13. No promises

Lay out specific rules for customer service-type interactions online. Make sure employees don’t overcommit or over-promise something the company might not be able to deliver.

14. No pressure

There shouldn’t be any compulsion in your guidelines. The best brand ambassadors communicate naturally—and without a script—so make sure you’re not asking employees to do too much online. They shouldn’t feel like this is just another “thing” on their plate.

15. Highlighting professional development

Employees should be free to cultivate a personal brand, too. Remind workers that social media networking can lead to speaking opportunities, industry recognition or just new digital allies.

16. Collaboration

Don’t just write a social media guidelines document, host it on the intranet and hope folks find it. Encourage employees to collaborate in crafting the guidelines. Ask for feedback, and let popular opinion help shape your piece.

Take advice from your social media superstars and best advocates, and let employees’ voices shine through in your guidelines.

Social media guidelines examples 

If you’re still not quite sure where to start, have a look at these excellent examples:

However you go about crafting or distributing social media guidelines, just make sure they’re in place. Establishing clear, concise rules about online behavior is a crucial step toward protecting your company’s reputation. It’s much better to set expectations before disaster strikes, instead of after.

A version of this post first appeared on the Tribal Impact blog.


3 Responses to “16 essential elements of employee social media guidelines”

    Michael Lewis says:

    Good Content
    On Social Media Guidelines .I totally agree with this article.
    Thank you for sharing your great knowledge with us.
    Looking forward to your further tips on similar topics Thanks…
    I really appreciate it.

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