Does your business have a Facebook page? What about an Instagram account? It probably does, but even if it doesn’t (wait, no social media accounts? Have you heard we are in the 21st century?) you need to read this article!
Social media is the angel and the devil for businesses – it can make you thrive or smack you down...It all depends on one single document.
Your Social Media Policy
What is a social media policy?
A social media policy doesn’t need you to be tech savvy - it is a company code of conduct that concerns employee behaviour (i.e. what they post) on social media networks, blogs, messaging apps, forums, email, etc.
Who needs a social media policy?
You might think that if you don’t have a blog, Facebook page or Twitter account you are safe. You are wrong! You are never safe because your employees and customers have social media accounts, blogs and they chat on forums. What they say about your company affects you commercially and legally even if you decide to be just an observer.
That’s why every business needs a social media policy even if you choose to stay traditional brick-and-mortar.
How do you create a social media policy?
The thing with social media is you can’t predict everything that can happen. You can’t just say “If this, then do that” because the environment we operate in changes so fast -- the policy from yesterday doesn’t make sense today. That’s why instead of trying to create rules, focus on creating a culture of the way we do things around here.
What do you do with social media policy?
Make everyone sign it! The best way to handle this is to have it attached to employment (and termination) contracts. If you want to make sure all your current employees understand and adhere to it, schedule a 2-hour training session in which you explain the policy, why it is important and when it is to be applied.
Social media policies are very flexible and should reflect the nature of your business.
In our legal experience however, there are a few things that every social media policy should tackle. For the safety of your company, your customers and your employee...
...and here they are:
The 3 things that should be in every social media policy:
- Prohibit the sharing of confidential, sensitive, copyrighted, trademark information on personal accounts, as well as, defamation of colleagues or customers.
- Explain when and how employees need to identify themselves as such (when talking about products or services) and how they can use the company name or brand.
- Set boundaries with customers - when are employees to enter an argument or make a comment, in what way they should respond to customers and how much of the customer experience are they allowed to post online.
There is much more that can be included. The more complex the organisation, the more complex the policies will get.
One important tip is to consult a lawyer first as to what are the regulations of employee - customer communications so that you make sure your policies are not breaking any laws (by posting personal information about a purchase like an address or telephone number of a customer, for example).
Now that you know how a social media policy can break or make your online reputation, what are you going to do?
If you have an in-house lawyer, she will be able to help you draft your first social media policy. If you don’t have one, you should get one fast!