It still makes companies nervous to allow employees to use social media — at all — but particularly on behalf of the company. What helps, and is often the first stage to get through before a company is ready to engage on the social web, is for the company to draft and adopt a social media policy.
Personally, I don’t believe in social media policies – I think you can have employee codes of conduct in general and address specifically what your expectations are for employee conduct online as well as off, but I don’t believe a company should or can successfully dictate what an employee does online or even fully monitor the employee’s online activity (unless that’s how you want to spend all your time.) Read Five Reasons Why Your Company Doesn’t Need a Social Media Policy if that’s where you’re leaning — if not, read on!
Nevertheless, many industries, fields, practices, firms, companies, organizations, etc. require the social web and its staff members’ use of it addressed and I am here to help.
Five Elements of a Successful Social Media Policy
- Be clear about your expectations. If you want employees to use specific platforms on behalf of the company, tell them what they are and how those tools should be used.
- Provide social media training. Most employees will use social media for personal use and they will do so on company time. Knowing that, decide how you can turn that personal time into a benefit for your organization, and provide tips to allow employees to have social media success on your behalf.
- Post the “DON’T” list where every employee has access to it, can refer to it and acknowledge receipt. This is the list of items the staff must not disclose about the company. Everyone is entitled to some privacy; make sure the employees understand what the company holds sacred.
- Write it in language that adapts. As soon as you do a final edit on your social media policy a new platform will be released (FourSquare and Twitter did not exist when I was writing the first policies for clients). Don’t make the policy so specific to platforms or tools that it’s outdated the minute it is published. Remember that this policy is about conduct in communications — on and offline — and write it that way.
- State the consequences of bad behavior. If you’re serious about it, you’re going to have to follow through. I recommend a structure not unlike an attendance policy with a “three strikes and you’re out” clause.