Social Media Policy Annual Review

Welcome to 2013. You’ve made your resolutions to be a bit more organised, have a better work-life balance, and spend more time in the gym than on Facebook. With each new start we tend to look back at the old, learn from where we were, and plan for the future.

So isn’t it time you picked up your company’s social media policy, blew off the dust, and considered if it’s still up-to-date and representative of your business online?

The social media space moves quickly, and not just the way news travels online. Platforms change. Rules change. And your employees change, too.

What once may have been a handful of people on your communications staff wading through the murky waters of social media, has likely expanded to the majority of your staff. Some may use it for personal reasons only, but many have crossed into using it professionally – and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.

Many policies are confusing. They carry contradictions, contain too much legal-speak or lack clearly defined parameters. Your policy is there to act as a guideline for best practice to safeguard your company’s reputation, as well as your employees’ rights. Here are a few pointers as you review your policy.

  • Take a stance: Your social media policy, first of all, should state your company’s position on the use of social media as part of its business objectives. If you are a B2B company, perhaps your company uses social media as part of a leadership profile, to build trust with stakeholders and demonstrate transparency in your organisation. Identify your corporate channels and the manager or department in charge of each.
  • State the basics: You may consider telling someone not to reveal confidential information as obvious, but depending on your industry, just checking in on Foursquare could reveal sensitive information. Ask your employees to be professional, respectful, and take personal responsibility for their opinions. Once it’s in the public domain—no matter how private they think their settings are—anything has the possibility of being taken out of context or quoted.
  • Define the roles and responsibilities: Social media can be a great way to enhance your company’s profile and reputation online, but the policy should also identify who can and should speak on its behalf. If you have a communications team or agency that manages your online profiles and therefore can release information through the official channels, this should be clearly stated and those responsible should be identified as points of contact.
  • Empower your employees: They can be your greatest advocates. Encourage them to participate, but not to originate content without a clear process for sign off internally. Tell them where you would love to see their involvement – write for the corporate blog, participate in your LinkedIn community, RT the official channels and share Facebook content with their friends. Include a flow chart on how to celebrate content or identify potential issues and the correct personnel to notify in each instance.
  • Educate your workforce: As part of a new employee induction, make sure your HR team appoints someone to review the social media policy with new hires and answer any questions. Your social media guidelines may tie in with your other policies such as a Code of Business Conduct, or Disclosure and IT Policy, all which carry consequences for non-compliance. Any offence that could result in a warning, suspension or termination must be stated clearly.
  • Review your policy annually: Appoint a team made up of employees from different departments to evaluate the policy. Take any staff concerns, internal issues, successes and case studies and consider where your policy needs to be amended. Make sure the new version is circulated to each employee and, when possible, ensure the policy changes are communicated either via departmental education or as part of a staff meeting.

Remember that social media should be inclusive. Make your employees feel safe within the guidelines, give them opportunities to share and be a part of your greater communications efforts. You may just be rewarded with an army of brand ambassadors excited to spread your word.

Kate Matlock is a digital strategist in Ketchum’s London office. Outside of work you can find Kate in the kitchen, the theatre, or in an airport off to her next adventure. A bit of a geek, she enjoys reading up on privacy, trust and changes in behaviour due to mobile and social platforms. Say hi to her on Twitter – @katematlock.