What is a social media policy?
A social media policy for employees is a document that sets out clear, concise guidelines on how employees should conduct themselves online — both personally and professionally.
Since many of your employees may be on various social media platforms, there’s a risk that regular use in the workplace can lead to lowered productivity, security breaches and reduction of confidence in your brand, especially if employees are posting unflattering or confidential information online.
A strong social media policy can mitigate these issues and help employees become aware of the implications of improper social media use. Adopting an effective social media policy can also help your company maintain its reputation through specific, actionable guidelines for how to post content or respond to comments online.
Benefits of employee social media policies
Social media employee policies provide many benefits to companies that implement them, including:
- Brand identity and reputation. A long-form social media policy elaborates on the company’s brand identity and reputation, giving employees guidance on the language to use when discussing the company and when and how they should respond to posts or comments about the company.
- Regulatory awareness. Companies often have internal regulations regarding public and private information. You should only expect employees to respect those boundaries if you make them aware of what they are.
- General prevention. Clarifying what is and isn’t appropriate for social media use can reduce the number of inappropriate actions.
- Open communication. A dynamic social media policy encourages open communication between the company’s leadership and its employees. This way, all stakeholders can address concerns and challenges before they become issues.
- Clear expectations. When employees know the company’s expectations, they’ll be less likely to post anything that will negatively impact your brand.
What to include in your employee social media policy
Standard social media policies for employees include guidance for those using the company’s social media sites and for personal use. Social media employee policies typically include:
- Departmental roles and expectations. Many companies maintain their own social media accounts, which are run by internal employees.
- Definition of social media. Social media is an ambiguous term. You may wish to include the following in your definition: blogs, forums, social networking platforms, video sharing and other communication apps.
- Security directives. Some company information may be private and should not be posted online. The social media policy should explain what information to avoid sharing on social media.
- Response plans. Occasionally, a quick response to a negative post or misinterpreted information is necessary. A proactive response plan saves time when swift action is required.
- Legal compliance. This section of the social media policy addresses any legal compliance as directed by the company.
- Personal social media use. An explanation of expectations for employee’s personal social media accounts sets out clear boundaries for professional and personal behavior online.
- Responses to outside posts. Employees may want to respond to posts about the company from their personal social media accounts, and this part of the policy provides them with appropriate ways of doing so.
- What the consequences are: Give a brief overview of the consequences for violation of the policy.
To make social media policies relevant to all of your employees (not just those who use your company account), consider creating a short, memorable policy specifically for personal social media use that is separate from the company’s overall social media policies. This way, employees can quickly and easily review the expectations for their personal social media use.
How to create a social media policy
Here are some steps you can take to create an effective social media policy for your business:
1. Establish expectations
Decide what is and isn’t acceptable for employees to do on their personal social media accounts when discussing the company. Seek input from company stakeholders in all departments. For example, your employees may come across negative posts about your business and be tempted to respond to them. However, you may prefer that you or a person on your social media, PR or marketing team address disparaging comments instead. Make sure this expectation is made known in your social media policy.
2. Assign roles
Select appropriate employees to manage aspects of the social media policy. For instance, your information technology (IT) specialist may be the contact for granting and restricting access to your business’s social media account. Provide names and contact information for employees who may have questions.
3. Develop security protocols
Develop protocols for passwords, file sharing or chat applications, professional profile management and personal internet use during work hours or while using company assets such as laptops, company Wi-Fi, company-issued phones and other devices.
4. Implement a social media crisis plan
Consider adding a guide for handling social media PR crises. Social media PR crises can happen when a departing employee posts something negative on your social accounts before their access is revoked, or when angry customers start venting online.
Guidelines for handling these types of crises can include the definition of various crises, communication plans and approval processes to manage any crisis quickly and efficiently. It’s also important to include details about how to post on social media during a crisis, such as stopping all scheduled posts.
5. Comply with state and federal law
Review state and federal laws regarding privacy, confidentiality and copyrights.
6. Provide guidelines for personal social media use
Give your employees clear guidelines for personal social media use in the office and at home, especially if they use company IT assets. Provide information about how social media posting can affect your company, even when posting outside the office.
7. Allow employees some freedom
Make sure employees feel they can still use their social media accounts freely and that the company supports their desire to communicate online. For example, Dell includes a section titled “Be Nice, Have Fun, and Connect” in its social media policy.
8. Post it in multiple places
Include the policy in your employee handbook, in internal company documents and websites, and in print form to hang up around the workplace.
Sample social media policy template
Use the template below to create a social media policy for your company:
[Date and Version]
[Communicate why the policy is being implemented and what you hope to achieve by implementing this policy]
[State company mission and values]
Social media policy
The following is a list of guidelines for social media use by [Company Name] employees:
- [Use at work, while on company IT assets or on the company intranet]
- [Data security and privacy]
- [Personal use, representation of company]
[Consequences of policy violation]
If you are in need of more information or if you have any concerns, please contact [HR director] at [phone] or [email].
Social media policy examples
Here is a social media policy example to use as a reference when you write a policy for your organization:
September 10, 2020
Super Value conducts various customer interactions including marketing and promotion through various social media channels. This social media policy addresses various aspects of proper social media use by our employees.
The Super Value company is dedicated to quality products and service with the help of our talented employees.
Social media policy
The following is a list of guidelines for social media use by Super Value employees:
- Transparency: Be honest on social media and think about how others may be affected by your post. Do not post any claims about our company, employees or actions we may take unless given prior authorization to post on behalf of Super Value.
- Safety: For the protection of our customers and employees, do not visit social media sites while using Super Value IT assets or the Super Value intranet.
- Own your views: Unless you have prior authorization to post on the company’s behalf, add a statement that you are posting your own views, not the views of Super Value.
- Confidentiality: Do not disclose personal information about Super Value customers, future product launches or other private company information.
Using social media at work
Personal social media use is not allowed during work hours, on Super Value’s intranet or while working on one of Super Value’s IT assets. Social media use may take place during meal or break periods and on your personal devices only. We do not permit photography in our facilities during work hours or their distribution without prior approval from Super Value.
Any violation of this policy will be met with disciplinary action up to termination, depending on the severity of the violation and prior warnings.
If you notice your colleagues using social media improperly, please report anonymously via phone or email at (888) 888-111 or email@example.com. For more information, contact Shelly Porter, HR director, at (716) 235-4302 or HRpolicies@supervalue.com.
Other social media policy examples
- Dell Global Social Media Policy
- Edmunds Social Media Guidelines
- Intel Social Media Guidelines
- The New York Times Social Media Guidelines
Example phrases to use in your social media policy
Here are a few examples of brief and easy-to-remember phrases to consider including in your social media policy:
- If you’re not sure you should post it, then don’t
- Avoid online arguments
- Identify your opinion as your own
- What goes on the internet stays on the internet
- Be nice and have fun
- Be kind
- Respect the company
- Post cautiously
- Make connections, respect others and represent the company professionally above all else
Social media policy FAQs
Should I monitor my employee’s social media pages?
Although employee social media pages may be public, consider trusting employees to do the right thing, and only check their social media if you are given reason to believe their posts have violated your company’s social media policy.
Additionally, many states have privacy laws that prohibit employers from asking for or obtaining passwords to their employee’s personal social media accounts.
How can I protect my company’s social media from a security breach?
Work with your IT specialist to develop protocols for passwords and install security measures such as virus protection, firewalls for your intranet and other measures. If you have a social media or marketing team, ensure they’re educated in the proper use of social media platforms, sharing of information and data privacy. Protecting important information is essential to your business.
Are employee social media policies necessary?
Social media policies are becoming ubiquitous in employee handbooks because social media use is often integral to personal and professional life. Establishing a policy for the company is a great way to protect the company’s interests while providing clear guidance and support for employee use.
Your company’s employee social media policy should be dynamic. New social media sites are created regularly with novel designs and features, constantly changing the way people interact online. Regularly assess your company’s social media policy and update it to reflect changes to overall social media use.