How to Create a Wise Social Media Policy: 6 Steps to Succeed

October 21, 2016

9:00 pm

Social networks pose a powerful instrument for organizations to increase brand awareness and build a community of loyal customers. At the same time, inappropriate use of social networking by employees can have numerous adverse effects for a company. The present-day online paradigm requires us to address the steady rise of social media policy role in developing a solid business reputation.

Whether you run a small business or a large multinational corporation, introducing this set of rules is in your best interest. Social media policy mitigates the risk of sensitive data disclosure and thwarts unfavorable implications about your brand.

From an employee’s perspective, such a policy is useful as it provides clear-cut do’s and don’ts. These rules and instructions may engage workers in bolstering a company’s marketing progress or even help keep their job.

The news-making case of a pizza waitress who got fired over an insulting post on Facebook demonstrates how an inconsiderate virtual action can have real-world consequences. All in all, adopting these principles appears to be a win-win for all parties involved.

Social Media Policy Essentials

Fortunately, employers needn’t reinvent the wheel when crafting a social media policy. Numerous policies for different organizations are readily available online. Perusing them all, however, is too time-consuming for a busy executive or HR specialist. It makes sense to single out the most noteworthy aspects to keep in mind when creating a corporate social media policy.

1) Keep It Positive and Encourage Participation

Focus on things that your employees are allowed online rather than forbidding to do something. A purely restrictive model worked well in the past, but it’s not nearly as relevant these days. The whole gist of social networking is about taking advantage of the positive. It’s better to express the guidelines in a friendly manner and emphasize your employees’ role in boosting brand awareness. Make do’s the keynote of your policy. An example is the Global Social Media Policy of Dell Inc., which highlights the importance of social media as one of the tools its employees can use to build their brand.

2) Separate the Corporate From the Personal

Encourage transparency by mandating your employees affiliate themselves with your organization. In the meanwhile, they should make it clear that the views they express on social networking sites are their own. Since public and private information may intersect online, it’s critical to draw a distinct line between these two personas. For instance, Ford Motor Company’s Digital Participation Guidelines recommend their associates to add a disclaimer in each social media profile. It reads: “I work at Ford, but this is my own opinion and is not the opinion of Ford Motor Company.”

3) Enforce Responsibility and Common Sense

The social media policy of Best Buy, a well-known American consumer electronics company, is really concise regarding the responsibility of its employees online. You can read it yourself: “If you are not a vice president, don’t say you are.” Be sure to include a similar entry and require your colleagues not to misrepresent themselves on social networks. Also, make it clear that anything your employees post that tarnishes your company’s image will be their responsibility.

4) Add Legal Liability to the Mix

Don’t fail to include a point addressing the violation of any applicable law. The policy should spell out that your employees can be held personally liable for postings that contain defamatory allegations, derogatory remarks or ungrounded legal conclusions. The Yahoo! Personal Blog Guidelines fully exemplify this approach. It says that employees are legally responsible for their commentary and that outside parties can pursue legal action against them.

5) Touch Upon Non-Disclosure

Emphasize that bragging about trade secrets is a dangerous undertaking with potentially devastating consequences like an online breach. This also applies to information on sales trends, future promotions, strategies, forecasts, and personal details about customers and employees. In other words, anything that’s meant to be non-public should remain confidential. To get a better idea of how to go about this particular subject, consider scrutinizing the social media guidelines of Gap Inc., a popular clothing retailer company.

6) Make Copyright Compliance the Rule of Thumb

As a manager, leverage your policy to advocate respect of copyrights and other proprietary information. Your employees should give people proper credit for their work and refrain from posting confidential or copyrighted information that belongs to third parties as well as their own company. Here is what the Intel Social Media Guidelines say on this point: “Please respect brand, trademark, copyright, fair use, and trade secrets.” Importantly, the use of company logos or other images for personal purposes should be off limits as well.

Now that you have familiarized yourself with some of the best practices of tailoring a social media policy get down to writing your own. Сonsider engaging your employees in this process — some reasonable feedback can help adjust these guidelines to your organization’s needs.


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David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 10 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs the project which presents expert opinions on the contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy and white hat hacking. As part of his work at Privacy-PC, Mr. Balaban has interviewed such security celebrities as Dave Kennedy, Jay Jacobs and Robert David Steele to get firsthand perspectives on hot InfoSec issues. David has a strong malware troubleshooting background, with the recent focus on ransomware countermeasures.

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