The Top Five Reasons Your Business Needs a Social Media Policy

Introduction

Social media has become an increasingly important part of everyday life in recent years. Social media is also a meaningful way for businesses to connect with customers and promote products and services. However, if a company does not have a social media policy, it could be in trouble.

For example, in 2012, the clothing company Kenneth Cole faced backlash on Twitter after making a tweet about the uprising in Egypt. The company quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, but the damage had already been done. The incident drew attention to the need to guide employees on what is and is not acceptable to post online.

Another example: Justine Sacco was the head of corporate communications for IAC, which owns popular websites like Tinder, Match.com, and CollegeHumor. On December 20th, 2013, she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” The tweet was meant to be a joke, but it was not well-received, and it soon went viral. By the time she landed in South Africa eleven hours later, she had been fired from her job, and her former employer was engaged in damage control.

Social media policies are essential for a business because they help protect the company’s image and create a standard of behavior for employees using social media. A social media policy should outline what is and isn’t allowed when posting about the company online. It should also explain how the company will handle issues arising from employee posts. Without a social media policy, businesses can find themselves in hot water for things like making inappropriate comments, posting copyrighted material without permission, or even revealing confidential information.

A social media policy can help protect your company from any negative publicity that may come from an employee’s online actions. It can also help you avoid any legal issues that may arise from employees making statements about the company on social media.

Here are five crucial reasons for enacting and enforcing social media policies for your company and staff:

Protect your brand

Businesses increasingly use social media to interact with customers, promote their brand, and build relationships. However, improper use of social media can have negative consequences for businesses, including damage to the company’s reputation and loss of customers. A social media policy can help businesses protect their brand and mitigate the risks associated with social media use.

Employees are often seen as representatives of the company whether they want to be or not. Your social media policy should remind employees always to be professional when representing the company online. This means no posting of inflammatory or offensive content, no bashing of competitors, and no sharing of confidential information. A social media policy should set out the rules for employees’ use of social media, including what is acceptable behavior online and what is and is not allowed to be posted. The policy should also explain how the company will respond to negative comments about it online, how to respond to customer inquiries, and how to protect the privacy of your customers. Employees should be aware of the policy and sign a copy acknowledging that they have read and understood it.

Define acceptable use

Many businesses give one or more employees access to the company’s social media accounts, so they can share compelling content, interact with current and prospective clients, and respond to inquiries and comments. Furthermore, employees can usually comment on the company’s posts or social media home pages using their personal social media accounts. Whether your company provides access to one person or a whole team, your business social media policy should define what is and is not acceptable use of the company’s social media platforms. Some things that should be included in a social media policy are:

  • What types of posts are allowed (company news, personal opinions, etc.) and not allowed?
  • Can employees post comments on the company’s social networks, including Facebook and Twitter? 
  • What content is acceptable, including photos, videos, and links to articles? 
  • How will the policy be enforced? Will it be monitored or reported?
  • What repercussions will result from breaking the policy?
  • Who is responsible for posting company information on the Internet?

You may want different rules for personal and professional use of social media, and you should include steps to deal with employees who violate the policy. In addition, you may want a plan in place to monitor your employees’ social media activity.

Establish guidelines

The United States Department of Labor released a report stating that social media use (or misuse) is a primary reason for workplace lawsuits. The report says that out of the 5,000 private sector cases studied, social media was cited in nearly half of them. Most employers have policies that prohibit employees from discussing company business on social media. However, many employees still do not realize the implications of what they post online. One example of employee social media use gone wrong is when an employee at Whole Foods tweeted about a food recall. The employee was not authorized to release information to the public. The Food and Drug Administration fined whole Foods $500,000 due to the employee’s actions.

Business announcements, company barbeques, holiday parties, and trade shows are just a few situations that require guidelines for social media use. It is essential to have policies in place to ensure that social media is used in the most appropriate way possible for company-related information and events. By setting some basic rules, employees will know what is expected of them and what is appropriate to share online with their social media accounts.

While allowing employees to post about company events or products can be beneficial, the company must consider how to respond to any negative comments that may arise. Overall, having clear guidelines will help ensure that social media is used consistently and professionally for the company’s benefit.

Protect your employees

In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to communicate with others online. But what happens when that communication turns into a form of misconduct?

It is no secret that social media can be a minefield for employees. From posting confidential company information to making negative comments about their boss or coworkers, employees can easily jeopardize themselves by using social media sites. That’s why employers need to have social media policies that protect their employees from potential harm. Some potential pitfalls for employees:

  • Posting confidential company data: Employees should always be careful about what they share on social media sites, especially regarding the potential to reveal internal company business and other sensitive information. For example, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employees cannot post private information about their coworkers or employers on social media sites.
  • Posting inappropriate photos: In most cases, employees should avoid posting private photos on business social media. Employers may not have a problem with employees taking personal pictures at work, but those photos should be saved on their phones for personal use only. The situation gets more complicated when photos are shared with the public. For example, many employers frown on employees taking pictures of their offices and sharing them online.
  • Posting personal information: It’s also important to use caution when posting personal data online, such as home addresses and phone numbers.

Employers who take the time to create a social media policy that protects their employees can reasonably expect that their workers will be safe from the potential dangers of social media.

Comply with regulations

Nearly every company has a LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, Twitter account, or other social media presence. However, many companies are unaware of social media’s legal risks and how their social media posts could violate applicable regulations. For example, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has specific rules about what you can and cannot say in commercial messages, including those posted online. An unvetted social media post could run afoul of the rules and expose your company to penalties. Even a seemingly innocent post could be a source of trouble if it includes depictions of behavior (i.e., smoking, drinking, or drug use) prohibited in your jurisdiction or by the platform’s terms of service. If you’re unsure what the regulations are, it’s best to consult an expert.

Creating a social media policy that complies with all applicable regulations is essential to protect your company from potential legal troubles. Compliance considerations can overlap with the question of who is authorized to post content on behalf of the company. For example, if you are a bank, you may want to restrict employees from posting anything that could be construed as advertising or promoting the bank. You may also want to require employees to get approval from a supervisor before posting any content that could be considered controversial or harmful in any way.

Conclusion

From connecting with customers and potential investors to staying up-to-date on industry trends, social media policy is essential for any organization looking to remain competitive. A social media policy can help protect your company and its employees from any negative publicity from using social media sites. Some things that should be included in a social media policy are what type of information is confidential and should not be shared online, what type of behavior is unacceptable online, and how the company will handle any employee who violates the policy. Having a social media policy can help prevent embarrassing or damaging situations from happening and help keep your company’s reputation safe.

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