Social media use is so ingrained in our behavior that employers need policies to manage employees’ online behavior—both on the clock and off. Although businesses that prohibit social media risk more than irking affected tweeters, allowing employees unfettered access can lead to reduced efficiency and heightened risk of liability exposure. In crafting a social media policy, employers should aim for a fair and flexible policy that keeps employees happy and boosts productivity, as well.

So what does a good social media policy look like? Here are 5 social media guidelines than can benefit businesses.

5 Social Media Policy Guidelines

  1. Be Transparent

    Companies have designated spokespeople for a reason. When an employee makes a comment on social media, audiences may mistakenly believe the poster or tweeter is speaking on behalf of the company, especially when an employee’s public persona is tied to his job role.

    Requiring employees to clearly identify their authorial capacity in social media communications can spare readers the confusion of guessing and save businesses the headaches that follow when individual speech is mistakenly viewed as corporate speech.

    When to Use a Corporate Account: Social media posts from businesses are often best accomplished through a corporate account. That way, you can also implement all strategies you can find on the Marketing Heaven to reach out to more people. When individuals speak on behalf of a business, their accounts should look professional, include a company logo and work contact details, and keep with the company’s branding and communications guidelines.

    How to Handle Multiple Accounts: If an employee wants to operate her own blog or Twitter account that’s perfectly fine just as long as users won’t mistake it for a company account. Employees whose social profiles are part of their professional identities — such as media or sales representatives — may need to take further steps to separate their public and professional profiles.

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  2. Avoid Sensitive Topics

    Although businesses have difficulty trying to moderate online discussions in which employees engage, reminding them use caution when pressing hot-button topics such as politics or religion can deter comments that may reflect poorly on the individual or company. Even something as simple as responding to negative feedback can put a spotlight on company for its callous attitude toward customer relationships if handled poorly.

    Social media policies that encourage thoughtfulness and tact let employees know that inflammatory postings can hurt the business. As a rule of thumb, employees shouldn’t write anything online they wouldn’t be comfortable saying in a room full of strangers, even if goaded by other users.

    Tact doesn’t always work. Even the most seemingly innocuous social media comment can turn offensive under the right circumstances. Businesses should encourage employees to report any insensitive posts immediately so actions can be taken to minimize the impact.

  3. Keep It Confidential

    Confidentially has never been harder to protect than in the age of social media. Employers can expect workers to discuss their jobs on social media, and that can be a good thing when done responsibility.

    Certain topics are even less suited for public forums, including:

    1. Confidential or proprietary business information.
    2. In-house directives and correspondences such as those found on an internal network.
    3. Discussion of company financials—past, present or future. Failing to follow this rule can cause legal trouble, both for the individuals making the comments and the companies they work for.

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  1. Personal Responsibility

    Harsh responses often result from mistakes made on social media. When you’ve gotten attention for the wrong reasons, the relative anonymity many take for granted can shatter with life-altering consequences.

    That’s because the sheer volume of social media posts on the Internet cuts both ways: On one hand, most posts (no matter how offensive) tend to get lost in the ocean of competing voices; on the other, when something goes viral, it doesn’t matter whether the writer actually meant what he said or intended so many people to see it. The crowd often forms its own, less-than-forgiving opinion.

Companies are held to an even higher standard of political correctness than individuals. Employees who understand that they may be held personally responsible for what they post online may think twice before saying something that could stoke the internet’s ire.

  1. Work Comes First

    When it comes to social media usage, workers respect an employer that “gets it.” They’ll respond positively to fair guidelines.

    Although allowing the freedom to use social media on the job draws employee approval, if online activity starts to interfere with job performance, the company is not only within its rights to discontinue that freedom, but it even has a responsibility to do so.  Emphasizing this in the social media policy can curb potential issues before they crop up, and lead to a policy that everyone can ‘like’.

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