Social media can have huge benefits for a company, especially in marketing and branding. However, without a solid, well-thought out social media policy, some social media in the workplace can bring negative consequences.
Even minor mistakes or inappropriate posts on social media can quickly spread and damage the image of a company.
Some companies fear this bad press so much that they create a strict social media policy. Some strict policies have explicit guidelines on what can and cannot be posted through social media, and who is allowed to post.
Other companies recognize the value of employees’ sharing their own opinions and content via social media, so they have set up more relaxed and casual guidelines.
When choosing or changing the social media policy of your company, start by looking at the extremes:
A) The strict social media policy
What are some of the rules that a strict social media policy may include?
- Employees must provide a disclaimer on their social media pages stating that their posts do not represent the views of the company.
- Only employees that have been chosen as “official” social media representatives are allowed to contribute to the brand’s social media.
- Employees cannot share logos of the company along with their posts on social media.
- Social media is not allowed in the workplace at all.
- Employees using social media should only engage in conversations about the company itself, for example as a customer service tool.
Here is an excerpt of the strict and formal social media policy that applies at Oracle.
B) The relaxed social media policy
A casual and relaxed social media policy might include these guidelines:
- Use common sense when deciding what to post online.
- Don’t publish any confidential company information.
- Be respectful and courteous.
- Be honest about who you are.
- Respect the privacy of others, and do not post private conversations or personal information of others without asking permission.
Here is an example of a more relaxed and casual social media policy at Ford.
The balancing act
The trick for modern companies is to find the right balance when it comes to social media use in the workplace. For many companies, an ideal social media policy would be loose enough to allow for interesting and creative posts that are interacting with consumers, yet strict enough to avoid problematic posts that bring bad press.
The solution, it seems, is to find a policy that combines the best of both worlds. A successful social media policy will allow your employees to spread content and opinions through social media and assist in the overall marketing efforts of your company while understanding what is not acceptable to post, based on the company’s policy.
Guidelines to follow when creating your social media policy
Because every company is different, every social media policy will be different as well. However, here are some basic steps to follow when deciding what’s right for your company:
1. Know your goals
The first thing you must do before establishing your company’s social media policy is to have a clear definition of your business’ objectives and corporate culture. A policy will work best and make more sense to employees if it is properly aligned with the goals and values of the company. As a marketing tool, your company’s social media efforts should support the overall mission or objectives the company is trying to achieve.
2. Weigh your options
Each option has its own positive and negative attributes. A lenient social media policy allows employees to express themselves and share their expertise online, which helps the company connect directly with consumers on a more personal level.
Those efforts can go a long way in helping build the overall brand of a company; unfortunately, not everyone uses common sense when posting online, and an overly lenient policy can lead to a bad company image. Distasteful or inappropriate posts can damage the company’s brand much quicker than a good post would improve the brand.
On the other hand, fear of these issues lead many companies toward an overly strict policy that stifles the creativity, expertise, passions, and voice of employees. Companies that rule outright against social media or control it too much are losing out on all the benefits it has to offer.
3. Find the balance
After understanding the options and possible outcomes, find the right balance that works best for your company based on its industry, size, culture, objectives, and brand.
4. Set the guidelines
Determine the procedures, educate employees about the new policy, and enforce it.
In today’s world, social media plays a large role in marketing and brand image whether companies want it to or not. That’s why establishing the right social media policy for your company is crucial, and is the best way to ensure that social media will benefit your company rather than work against it.