Social media can be a persistent workplace distraction, hindering productivity as employees easily access networks through both desktops and mobile devices.
Worse still, people — regardless of social savvy — can make mistakes that potentially hurt company reputation. Take Domino’s Pizza as an example. Cooks filmed themselves tampering with ingredients and shared the video.
These issues highlight the need to have a social media policy, especially if you represent a large organization filled with workers who have social accounts.
Following a brief explanation of what one should cover, read our downloadable social media policy template.
Feel free to edit it according to existing policies, regional laws, consultations with legal professionals and the five examples at the end of this post.
What a Social Media Policy Must Cover
At minimum, a corporate social media policy should include sections about:
- How the company uses social media. This part of the policy should cover different social media tactics and the reasons for executing them. It can also explain which employees have access to company accounts, as well as how to propose changes to strategies.
- How employees should use their own accounts. This area of the policy should clearly define approved and disapproved social media activities when employees use company resources. For their own benefit, it should list practices to avoid even when using personal social accounts during free time.
- How the company enforces the social media policy. This part of the policy should explain disciplinary measures employees risk facing by violating the rules. It can also go over how the company collects Internet activity data on business devices.
Involving these sections and more, below is the downloadable social media policy template:
The Social Media Policy Template
This social media policy presents and explains the rules governing social media use at [company name], including those applying to the marketing department and employees in general.
It follows that this policy describes how designated staff members must use the company’s social media accounts. It also explains the rules surrounding personal social media use during work hours and what employees may say about [company name] and company-related issues on their personal accounts.
Why This Policy Exists
This social media policy exists to ensure employees, regardless of their positions within [company name], use their social accounts in safe and effective fashions.
Although social media can benefit the company — especially in terms of marketing, relationship building and prospect communication — poorly-judged or -timed activity can hurt the company’s reputation.
[Company name]’s social media policy pertains to all staff members, as well as contractors and volunteers, who log onto social media platforms during work hours or to complete work-related activities outside of standard times.
Therefore, it applies to social media activity that relies on company Internet, occurs on company premises, happens while travelling and happens while working from home.
For the purposes of this policy, social media may refer to:
- Popular social networks such as Twitter and Facebook
- Photo-sharing websites such as Pinterest and Instagram
- Professional social networks such as LinkedIn
- Discussion forums such as the ones found on 4chan and Reddit
- Question and answer-based networks such as Quora and Yahoo Answers
- Review systems such as Yelp and Google Reviews
Basic Advice and General Guidelines
Whether [company name] employees are posting from company or personal accounts, we encourage them to follow basic best practice rules.
Adhere to these standards to avoid common social media mistakes:
- Understand the social network. Different social media platforms have different purposes. For example, it’s common to see more personal status updates on Facebook than LinkedIn. Before posting, become familiar with the network by reading FAQs and quickly researching what is and is not acceptable.
- Correct your own mistakes. When you make a factual error in a post, create an update to correct it. Deleting or editing the original post should come at your own discretion, depending on the situation.
- Beware potential security threats. Hackers can use social networks to distribute spam and malware. They can also launch phishing attempts. You should report suspicious activity, including questionable comments and friend requests.
- Be careful when sharing information about yourself or others. Hackers can also use personal information to their advantage.
- Don’t escalate issues. Responding to other social media users, especially concerning a contentious subject, can result in a heated argument. To avoid such arguments, it may be best to avoid commenting if you feel you may spark conflict.
- Think before posting. This is the golden social media rule. Not only should you check grammar and spelling, but ensure there won’t be any negative effects of posting a status update. These include creating arguments and divulging sensitive information.
Use of Company Social Accounts
[Company name] social media accounts must only be used and created by authorized individuals for the purpose of meeting defined company goals.
Goals and Purposes of Company Social Media Accounts
As the social media landscape quickly changes and evolves, we encourage employees to think about new ways to use company accounts.
However, account activity should not stray from the company’s goals of engaging consumers and promoting products. Doing so builds stronger relationships with customers and prospects while driving traffic to other digital properties.
Employees can typically meet these goals by:
- Distributing original content pieces such as blog posts, infographics and product photos
- Sharing third-party content pieces relevant to company target audiences
- Promoting special offers, including contests and discount events
- Announcing and previewing new products and initiatives
- Interacting with consumers, including responding to customer and prospect questions
- Monitoring the social web for brand mentions and responding accordingly
Only approved users may access [company name] social media accounts to perform the aforementioned tasks.
The [marketing director OR social media lead] will grant authorization. He or she will do so when an employee’s role involves creating and executing social media strategies, or researching new and existing target audiences.
The company only approves certain employees to ensure its social media voice and approach stay consistent, aligning with marketing and customer service objectives.
Creating Social Media Accounts Under the Company’s Name
As [company name] must explore the advantages and disadvantages of expanding its social media presence into new networks, the [marketing director OR social media lead] must approve the creation of company social media accounts.
If employees see the opportunity to create a social media account that supports company goals, they should pitch their ideas to the [marketing director OR social media lead].
Use of Personal Social Media Accounts at Work
As personal social media use can yield clear professional benefits, such as expanding industry knowledge and connections, [company name] understands it is advantageous for employees to use personal accounts.
Below are acceptable uses for accessing personal social media accounts during work hours:
- Competitor research
- Monitoring company accounts
- Connecting and interacting with users who may benefit professional development
- Emergency purposes, such as contacting friends and family members who cannot be reached otherwise
Below are unacceptable uses for accessing personal social media accounts during work hours:
- Browsing friend photos and accounts
- Adding contacts to your networks for non-professional reasons
- Participating in conversations not pertaining to work-related topics
Note that during breaks and lunches, employees may use their personal social media accounts freely.
However, activity should not conflict with the following section.
Regardless of whether the social media account is personal or under company name, employees should not:
- Conduct illegal or criminal activities, as defined by [online communication bill/legislative document]
- Distribute material that could be interpreted as libelous or defamatory
- Share updates, images and messages that may tarnish the company’s public image
- Discuss colleagues, customers and suppliers without their expressed consent
- Harass others by sending them offensive content and messages
- Communicate with company competitors in disrespectful fashions
- Distribute spam and chain messages
Employees who violate this social media policy could face disciplinary action. Depending on the nature and severity of the violation, this could include termination of employment.
[Company name] reserves the right to monitor how social networks are used and accessed through company Internet resources. These include, but are not limited to, computers and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones that are provided for business use.
Moreover, the company maintains official records that contain certain data related to social media activity. These include, but are not limited to, messages sent and received through the company’s computer systems.
When appropriate, [company name] may involve law enforcement officials and agencies. In doing so, the company may be compelled to share stored data.
5 Social Media Policies to Consider
To gain a better understanding of how to adjust our social media policy template, read about these fives examples:
1. Associated Press (AP)
AP bases its social media guidelines on its news values and principles, which define the wire’s approach to reporting.
Above all, AP encourages journalists to be active on the major social media platforms while refraining from expressing personal opinions on controversial issues.
Here are some take-away points from the policy:
- “Employees may not include political affiliations in their profiles and should not make any postings that express political views.”
- “We should avoid interacting with newsmakers on their public pages — for instance, commenting on their posts.”
- “AP is strongly in favor of engaging with those who consume our content. Most feedback we receive is constructive, and any substantive criticism of our content should be taken seriously, however it may be phrased.”
2. Best Buy
Employees should strive to provide proper customer service at all times, which is why Best Buy states that its social media policy applies to both company and personal accounts.
Here are some highlights:
- “State That It’s YOUR Opinion: When commenting on the business. Unless authorized to speak on behalf of Best Buy, you must state that the views expressed are your own. Hourly employees should not speak on behalf of Best Buy when they are off the clock.”
- “Act responsibly and ethically: When participating in online communities, do not misrepresent yourself. If you are not a vice president, don’t say you are.”
- “(Don’t disclose) The Numbers: Non-public financial or operational information. This includes strategies, forecasts and (al)most anything with a dollar-figure attached to it. If it’s not already public information, it’s not your job to make it so.”
The Coca-Cola Company’s social media policy enforces five values on itself and employees. These include protecting consumer privacy, ensuring all social activity is transparent and adhering to a set of best practices.
Below are important quotes from the guidelines:
- “The Company does not condone manipulating the social media flow by creating ‘fake’ destinations and posts designed to mislead followers and control a conversation.”
- “Be a ‘scout’ for compliments and criticism. Even if you are not an official online spokesperson for the Company, you are one of our most vital assets for monitoring the social media landscape.”
- “Online, your personal and business personas are likely to intersect. The Company respects the free speech rights of all of its associates, but you must remember that customers, colleagues and supervisors often have access to the online content you post. Keep this in mind when publishing information online that can be seen by more than friends and family, and know that information originally intended just for friends and family can be forwarded on.”
The Ford Motor Company also lists five core values in its social media policy, one of which is understanding that online communications can be permanent.
Here are guideline highlights:
- “Include the following notice somewhere in every social media profile you maintain: ‘I work at Ford, but this is my own opinion and is not the opinion of Ford Motor Company.’”
- “It’s good business practice for companies (and individuals) to keep certain topics confidential. Respect confidentiality. Refrain from speculation on the future of the Company and its products.”
- “Consider everything you post to the Internet the same as anything you would post to a physical bulletin board or submit to a newspaper. Many eyes fall upon your words, including those of reporters, consumers, your manager and the competition.”
5. Government of Ontario
Canada’s most populous province puts a spin on its social media policy — it applies to when users who aren’t employed by the government communicate with government-run social accounts.
Below are some take-away points from the unique, public terms-of-use:
- “You must not … mislead us or anyone else as to your identity or the origin of the posted content, or falsely claim to represent a person, organization or entity.”
- “You must not … post or transmit any message, content or link to content that … is abusive, hateful, homophobic, discriminatory, malicious, aggressive, threatening, violent, sexist, harassing, inflammatory, indecent, tortious, defamatory, knowingly false, misleading, deceptive, vulgar, obscene, offensive, scandalous, sexually explicit, profane, offensive or otherwise objectionable.”
- “If we suffer costs or damages as a result of your violating these rules, we expect you to cover our costs and damages.”
Final Thoughts about Using this Social Media Policy Template
Use these guidelines as a starting point and create your policy according to regional laws, company standards and advice from legal professionals.
We also recommend using the five examples for more ideas.
But remember — since the social media landscape constantly changes with new releases and alterations to popular platforms, your policy must continuously evolve.
The Social Media Professor
- Aurora Meyer, University of Missouri Adjunct Professor
The Multimedia Journalist
- Samya Ayish, CNN Reporter and Social Media Producer
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