Are you struggling to develop or update your social media policy? Take a look at our quick guide to ten things about a good social media policy, and get yours spruced up. Better still, assess your current practices with our handy 10-minute self-evaluation

KISS or Keep It Simple, Stupid!-  Yes, you do need detail for backup, and certainly in the event of legal challenge. But staff are far more likely to remember, and be familiar with, a simple summary online version. In particular, you should highlight important ‘Dos and Don’ts’ in the summary. You can provide more detailed information for those who are doing a lot of social media activity. You should be aiming to make the document easy to read and understand, in plain English.

A strong focus on what really matters – The best social media policies focus on what really matters to the organisation. For example, government departments tend to emphasise the importance of staff not commenting on political affairs, because as civil servants they are politically neutral,. The Scottish Women’s Football guidance emphasises issues about privacy and communication with children and young people. Some may focus on rules, others on company values. What is important is what matters to your company.

Keeping the style appropriate – Likewise, the style of your social media policy is a matter of choice, but it does need to be appropriate. In this case, that means that it fits both the content of the policy, and the style of communication that you want your employees to use. If you’re in a business where the legal implications are the most important aspect, you may be better with a more formal policy, encouraging similar social media communication.

Advise, not control – It is almost impossible to control social media activity. Anyone active on social media and mentioning their employer clearly feels strongly that they need to do so. The best that you can hope for, therefore, is to advise people about what is appropriate, and in line with organisational values, and help them to conform. TNT has done this particularly well, with an elegant graphic about social media use.

One size fits all – It is important for fairness and for clarity that everyone is operating under the same set of rules. You really don’t want rules that change when you reach a certain level of seniority, as you will get confusion about which set of rules is to be used, and concern that not everyone is equal. The same principles should apply to directors, including non-executive directors, as to every other employee.

Personal or business? – Many people may use personal social media accounts for work purposes. Your social media policy should therefore make clear the difference between personal use that may occasionally refer to the company, and social media activity ‘on behalf of’ the business, which may be via an official account. It also needs to recognise, however, that the distinction is increasingly blurred, and provide support for employees to navigate these difficult waters.

A clear emphasis on ethics – The best social media policies are clearly grounded in strong ethics such as honesty and integrity. Tesco employees, for example, are encouraged to identify in their profiles that they are employees, and not try to hide their connection with the company. Volvo also emphasises the value of honesty, alongside privacy and responsibility.

Clear consequences – Many social media policies set out the risks and potential consequences of social media use. These may range from the personal, for example, sharing too much personal information or saying something that you later regret, through to the legal, such as being aware of copyright laws and other data protection issues.

A public statement supports expectation management – It is entirely up to you whether you make your social media policy publicly available or limit access to employees. If you do choose to keep it private, however, it is good practice to publish a brief statement setting out the principles of your policy. This is particularly important if your employees may be in contact with customers via social media, as it shows customers what to expect.

Communicate, communicate, communicate – The best social media policy in the world is no use if your employees don’t know about it. You need to make sure that everyone in the company knows about it, and understands how it affects them. This may mean that you need to translate it into multiple languages, hold workshops or supervise use. It certainly doesn’t mean just putting it on the company intranet and hoping people will find it.

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