The Importance of a Social Media Workplace Policy

Social media is simply another step in the evolution of communication

Where once we would contact our family, friends or customers via telephone or email, we now increasingly use social media for communication.

Only a few short years ago it would have been unheard of to consider taking bookings, answering queries or conversing with customers via social media. Now thanks to the ease of sharing, social media is a powerful tool to make ideasnews and conversations spread quickly. There is an immediacy that assists businesses to spread their message quickly, cost-effectively and efficiently.

The blurring of Lines between Work and Home

This immediacy coupled with the blurring of the line between work and home can cause challenges when it comes to employers and employees understanding acceptable behaviours online.

Most organisations see employees as an extension of their business and thus, by association believe they should be representing the values and culture of the company. Yes, even when not at work.

Having a clearly defined social media workplace policy helps regulate employees social media and digital activities regarding their employment in and outside of the workplace. 

So why is how we use social media such an issue?

We have all heard the stories of employees posting inappropriate content on Facebook that caused the loss of employment, but what about the potential to expose employers to risk such as loss of and/or disclosure of confidential information, discrimination claims, harassment, unfair dismissal, reputation threat or defamation?

No matter if your business employs 10,000 or 1, you do need an updated social media/digital policy in place – both to protect your business and your employees.

The workplace policy does not have to be complicated, yet should cover a few areas such as:

1) Your definition of Social Media

The term social media encompasses many different types of internet applications that allow user-generated content and multi-directional exchange of information.

Basically, it’s a catchphrase for electronic technology that allows for one to one or one to many conversations. Where it gets confusing is that people assume social media only covers social networking sites, which is not true.

There are reported to be between 6 to 12 different types of social media – here’s our take on it:

  1. Social Networking Sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn)
  2. Collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia)
  3. Social publishing platforms – Blogs and micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter, Medium, Tumblr, Blogger)
  4. Bookmarking sites (e.g. Pinterest)
  5. Content communities (e.g. YouTube)
  6. Virtual & augmented game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft )
  7. E-Commerce Sites (e.g. Etsy, eBay)
  8. Review Sites (e.g. TripAdvisor, Yelp)

Ensure you make it clear that the policy is not just limited to the sites and types of media that you list i.e. Facebook or Twitter, but also covers a definitive explanation of digital communication tools.

Maybe we should actually rename it instead of a Social Media Policy, change it to Digital, Internet or just simply Communication Policy?

2) What is Acceptable Behaviour and What is Not

Your policy should remind employees that they should not say or do anything on social media that:

  • could be viewed as derogatory towards, or disparaging of, colleagues, customers or clients;
  • give away or discusses your business’ confidential information;
  • has the potential to bring your business into disrepute;
  • undermines their effectiveness or productivity at work (i.e. excessive use).

3) The Consequences of Breaching the Policy

Remind employees of breaching the terms of the policy which may involve disciplinary action or indeed termination of employment.

Social media is here to stay. Therefore, a clear social media workplace policy will not only protect your business, but also protect your employees.  A win-win all round.

Some Extra Tips to Help You Create Your Social Media Workplace Policy

Be very clear

As an employer, you may not have the right to address any disciplinary action for an employee’s out-of-hours conduct, so you need to be very clear about your position of an acceptable code of conduct online.

Don’t Forget the Benefits

Alternatively, don’t dismiss the benefits of employees to help spread your social media message.

Customer advocacy and the use of User Generated Content is a huge part of a strong social media marketing strategy, but don’t forget that ethical employee advocacy is vital also.

They are your brand ambassadors and could be encouraged to assist building the brand online. There is no greater advocate than a passionate employee. Set the guidelines such as time online at work, what can and can’t be said and they will happily assist you build your business online.

Keep it Updated

Lastly, don’t forget to update your social media workplace policy and go through it with employees on a regular basis. Digital technology and Social media networks change rapidly, so does how we use them.

There is no question that social media or digital technology is here to stay. Even though evolving quickly and therefore the laws and considerations as to the role social media plays in the workplace will continue to evolve and change with time.

Remember to make sure your Social Media Workplace Policy is available to all your employees and do train and remind them about it regularly to ensure it is remains effective.

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