Why your company needs a social media policy

According to Twitter’s “About” page, the social media company has 271 million monthly users, and 500 million tweets are sent per day. Facebook more than quadruples that number with 1.32 billion monthly users, and let’s not forget about the users that are on Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Tumblr and LinkedIn. Those are relevant numbers to you, as it shows that it is highly likely that your employees are on social media networking sites.

With great power — or in this case, great access to social media — comes a great responsibility. It is almost too easy for a disgruntled employee to take to a Facebook status to disparage your organization, which is why it is important for you to have a social media policy in place.

Generally speaking, three of the biggest concerns that employers have in regards to social media are:

  1. Employees publicly defaming the company name and brand
  2. Having employees that post pictures or statuses that do not reflect the company in a positive way (i.e. drinking, partying, foul language)
  3. Employees disclosing confidential information

You need a social networking policy that explicitly lays out what is and isn’t permissible for employees. Your policy should be tailored to the organization, the business objectives and — ideally — to the grades of employees within the organization both within and outside of the company’s network. Your social networking policy should also make clear whether employees are allowed to identify themselves as representatives of the company; the policy must also include consequences for violations. The policy should spell out that violation of the policy can result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Additionally, it should reference other company policies that lay out the appeals process and other relevant information.

It may seem obvious, but it’s important that your policy define what is meant by “social networking” or “social media,” since the term means different things to different people. Everyone knows Facebook is a social networking site, but what about Flickr (photo-sharing site), or Live Journal (blogging site)? Are Web forums, such as those hosted by many companies for their customers to ask questions, considered a form of social networking under your policy? What about “old-fashioned” online networking methods, such as email?

You may want to name specific sites and technologies, but because new sites are always popping up, you should make it clear that the policies are not limited to the named sites.

It is important to remember that, as it is with any “policy,” terms are rendered useless if they’re not communicated properly to your employees. Having a social media policy included in an employee handbook is standard, but do your employees even know where their handbook is? Or has it even changed since they’ve been hired? Make sure that you have a continuing dialogue with your employees about the standards that you expect from them. Opening policies and procedures up for conversation not only ensures that your employees are all on the same page, but they are more likely to take ownership of the rules if they feel that they are part of the discussion.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 9.32.14 AMThis content is provided by APR Advantage Personnel Resources, a local company that provides payroll services, human resource solutions and employee screening. Visit their website at www.apradvantage.com.

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