Social Media Policy

Learn why your business needs a social media policy.

As a small business owner, you know social media is important. You may use social media as a marketing tool to increase brand awareness, connect with customers, and grow your business.

Even if your business does not use social media, your employees likely do. Most Americans use social media daily, but many small businesses do not have social media policies in place. This is dangerous because the impact of social media is tremendous. One bad post can cause irreparable damage to your business. Your business needs a social media policy.

What is a Social Media Policy?

A social media policy provides guidelines for your business's social media use. It governs your company's official channels of communication and sets guidelines for employee use of social channels.

Your social media policy should be clear, concise, and written in plain language. Review and update your policy frequently to reflect current social media practices.

Why Do You Need a Social Media Policy?

A well-drafted policy helps protect your company's online reputation, reduces legal and security issues, and gives employees guidance on what to share about your business in their professional and personal accounts. There are many ways a social media policy benefits your small business.

Clear Expectations

Social media is pervasive. Many people share their entire lives with friends and followers, often without thinking. This includes your employees. The policy reminds employees that responsibility to the company does not end at the end of the workday. Anything employees post has the potential to impact your business.

Social Media Account Ownership

A social media policy clearly establishes who owns social media accounts and content. It also communicates clear expectations about who can post what on behalf of the company. You should also identify who can use the company name in social media handles to help avoid legal disputes down the road.

Brand Identity

A social media policy allows you to preserve your brand identity. When you limit who can post on behalf of the company, you control the message. You don't have to worry about diluting your brand or confusing customers with off-topic messaging.

Your social media policy also controls the graphics used to represent the company. Identify specific images, fonts, colors, logos, or tag lines used by your business. Explain how to use these files properly.

Productivity

You pay employees to do a specific job, not chat with their friends. When employees use social media during work hours, they are wasting your time and productivity suffers.

Identify when and how employees may use social media during business hours. If you plan to monitor social media activity, state your intention in the policy.

Prevent Security Breaches

There are many social media risks. Accounts can be hacked, taken over, frozen, or deleted. A social media policy helps protect against security breaches that threaten your business.

Identify who handles passwords, software updates, and account security. Monitor unattended social accounts and be aware of imposter accounts. Encourage employees to verify links and websites before downloading files. Prohibit participation in games and quizzes, which are commonly used to access confidential data. Alert employees to phishing schemes.

Avoid a PR Crisis

The primary goal of a social media policy is to prevent a public relations crisis. Proper training on the policy and best practices is key. Make sure your employees understand the risks in posting controversial opinions on social media and encourage them to alert you to potential problems.

Your policy should include a management plan to deal with any problems that may arise.

Hiring and Firing Decisions

Many companies review candidates' social media profiles before making a hiring decision. Reviewing candidates' public profiles is permissible, but the social media policy should explain how you use social media in hiring decisions. State that you do not base hiring decisions on religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.

You may also need to fire an employee for social media posts that are illegal, unethical, or violate your code of conduct. A clearly stated social media policy allows you to discharge employees who break the agreement. Include specific examples of conduct that violates company policies.

What Should You Include in Your Social Policy?

Role Definitions

Your social media policy should identify who can post on behalf of the company. It may designate specific roles, like daily posts and engagement, customer service, or security, for each employee.

Employees should understand their own roles and know where to go for help. The policy should also state who handles education and training.

FTC Considerations

Your social media policy also covers positive comments and endorsements of your business. The Federal Trade Commission, which governs online advertising, requires transparency when people promote things online.

When employees post positive comments about your business, they must disclose their relationship to the company. Provide employees with guidance on how to disclose their relationship with your business. Unless they have a business handle, they should make the disclosure in the body of the post.

Legal Guidance

A well-crafted social media policy provides guidance for complying with copyright laws when using third party content. It also includes details about safeguarding customer privacy and confidential business information.

Personal Social Accounts

Your social media policy should remind employees that anything they post on their personal accounts has the potential to impact your business and their employment.

Hate speech, racial slurs, harassment, and threats of violence may be illegal and/or violate your company's code of conduct. Employees need to know they are responsible for these posts, whether they occur on company or private accounts.

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