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8 Key Things to Consider When Developing a Social Media Policy

In our last blog, we touched on the topic of social media in the workplace. If you haven't read it and want to understand more about why social media policies are so important, we recommend reading it first. 

To recap, employee use of social media does concern the employer. It can affect many areas including the company's public image, daily operations, legal troubles, bullying and more.

The goal of a social media policy is to outline the employer's expectations and create policies to foster an appropriate employee, employer, and social media relationship.

When the time comes to begin building a policy, there are 8 key things you should do:

1. Involve All Departments

The managers and/or executives of each major department should play a role in the development of the policy. This includes your HR, PR/Marketing, IT, etc. Each department will be able to bring different thoughts and concerns to the table. Make sure you address those concerns to create a well-rounded policy that spans over every department and keeps each employee accountable. 

2. Keep the Policy Broad

Technology is constantly evolving and social media sites are constantly updating. It’s likely that your employees will keep up with all the latest and greatest changes. While these changes and updates happen multiple times a year, it can be costly and time consuming for your organization to change its policy every single time. Your policy should be broad enough to cover current and future technology. Keep in mind though that just because you have a broad policy, that does not mean you should create it and never look at it again. Schedule time once a year to review the policy with your key managers to make sure it still works or make any necessary changes. Your policy should also cover the use of the company’s account (if you have one and employees have access to it) as well as personal accounts. 

3. Keep it Positive

Your policy is not in place to bring down the hammer on employees. Its purpose is to be a proactive tool for enforcing policies and procedures regarding social media. Try not to create a ‘big brother’ environment where employees feel watched and uncomfortable. The policy should be helping them make responsible decisions regarding their online activities. Should isolated incidents regarding social media occur, try dealing with the individuals involved to solve the problem and reinforce your policy. 

4. Define What’s Deemed Acceptable

This includes:

When social media can be used

Are employees allowed to freely check their social media or is it limited to breaks and after work hours? 

Which sites can be accessed

Do you ban certain website access on work devices? Let employees know what they are allowed to be accessing.

Engagement with official accounts

Are employees allowed to engage as themselves with the official accounts? What can they do or say when engaging with the brand on a public forum?

5. Make Sure the Policy is Clear

As mentioned in the last point, include what behaviour is acceptable and don’t forget to include what is unacceptable. It might even be in your best interest to include some popular FAQ’s that answer any common questions your employees might have. Don’t forget to be open to answering other questions your employees may present. 

6. Create a Physical Policy

This means actually printing your policy off and keeping a physical policy on location. It is also important that you provide the policy to your employees if they request it. 

7. Keep the Policy Accessible

Those physical copies we just mentioned, keep them in popular areas such as break rooms so that your employees can reference them if needed. If you have digital HR software with files that your employees can access, put a copy of the policy in there, too.

8. Educate Employees

Once you have developed your policy, hold a meeting with your staff and explain to them why your policy is being put in place and how it will affect them. Take this time to thoroughly comb over the policy and address any questions and concerns they might have. 

Case Example:

If you’re still not entirely convinced about the importance of having a policy, take a look at this Canadian case example:

“The British Columbia Supreme Court decision, Kim v. International Triathlon Union, involved a communications director who posted a number of inappropriate tweets and Facebook posts which reflected badly on the employer, as well as a blog post in which she compared her manager to her abusive mother. She was never warned about her social media activity, but was fired.  The employer had merely told that her communication style was not in line with its own. In overturning the termination and awarding damages for wrongful dismissal, the Court focused on the long-established principle of “cumulative cause”, whereby employers may discharge employees for ongoing bad behaviour if they first provide formal warnings stating that such behaviour is unacceptable. The principle is generally relied on where no single act of misconduct by the employee is sufficient to establish just cause for termination. The Court held that there was no just cause for termination despite the fact that the employee’s job entailed communications on behalf of the employer, including on social media.” 

To recap, Kim was successful in her wrongful dismissal claim, making a claim that her posts were written in a flippant manner that was considered to have been apparent to her supervisor. Kim claimed that the International Triathlon Union did not have a social media policy and had not given her warning that her posts were considered to be inappropriate, and would further lead to her termination. Had the organization had some sort of social media policy in place and it was properly followed, which includes disciplinary steps and causes for termination, it is possible that the International Triathlon Union’s decision for just cause termination would have held. 

Policy Examples:

The courier company has made great use of their FAQ section and strives to keep things as clear as possible for the employee. 

GM has done a great job of keeping their policy short and sweet, yet completely clear to employees. 

The tech product giant has developed a policy that mainly revolves around acceptable and unacceptable employee behaviour. Its policies are clear-cut and precise regarding their expectations. 

How do you feel about social media policies? Let us know by dropping a comment below!

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