Is it possible to terminate an employee for making work-related posts on social media? What if the posts aren’t even connected to your job? Are they protected speech, or are employers that want to preserve their brand free to use them?
“It depends,” is the response to all of those inquiries. That’s why you don’t have to look hard to discover examples of employees being dismissed or businesses being boycotted for making rash statements.
On social media, decisions are often made quickly and harshly. During the May protests in Minneapolis, the owner of a small literary agency tweeted about looting in her area. Within 48 hours, all of her agents had resigned, bringing with them many of their clients.
It’s no surprise that employees and employers are unsure about their rights to post, criticize, or control social media posts. Crossing a busy crossroads without traffic lights or lane markings can be likened to crossing a busy intersection with no lane markers to guide you.
This free-for-all is made more manageable by social media policy. Learn how to draught a social media policy that protects employees’ rights, promotes best practices, and reflects your company’s unique vision and values.
WHAT IS A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY?
A social media policy is a collection of rules that employees and other business representatives must follow when using social media. It comprises both official company media and personal profiles of employees. You have more control over employee content published on business time and through your platforms.
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY?
These eight critical areas should be addressed in your social media policy.
- Guidelines for business-owned media
Your policy should spell out how to manage your business social media outlets, including how to:
- Limit access to authorized users,
- enforce brand guidelines, establish security protocols,
- provide guidelines for posting and reacting to comments, and
- create mechanisms for comments that should be escalated for a higher-level response should be outlined in your policy.
- Business brand and values
Your policy’s language and the presentation should ideally reflect your brand. It should also include the following:
- Include a link to your brand rules in their entirety.
- Remind employees that they are important brand ambassadors and that their online remarks reflect poorly on your organization.
- Connect those principles to your expectations for posts about your organization, co-workers, customers, competitors, and public personalities on social media.
- Give specific examples of off-brand language or behavior.
- Provide direction to employees who discuss the brand in public venues. Employees at Adidas, for example, are encouraged to send a link to their Social & Environmental Affairs Department rather than posting comments defending the brand.
Employees should be truthful and take responsibility for their statements if they are told to:
- Encourage employees to be upfront and accept responsibility for their opinions by requiring them to declare their employment status when blogging about the company.
- Employees must mention that their ideas are their own and do not necessarily reflect the company.
- Confidentiality and security
Protecting sensitive information is another role of your social media policy. Employees should be required to:
- Keep trade secrets, company strategy, financial information, client data, and other confidential information off the internet.
- Keep co-workers’ information private to protect them.
- Maintain sufficient data security for firm finances.
- Defamatory or offensive content
Your social media policy should explicitly define what forms of expression are prohibited, such as:
- Offensive content, such as slurs based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, or disability.
- Harassment of co-workers is a problem.
- Content that demonstrates or encourages illegal activity.
- Defamatory remarks about the company, its competitors, employees, or other people.
- Protected speech
You may choose to include a section highlighting protected speech, as described above under legal safeguards, or you may decide that it is adequately covered elsewhere and omit it.
Violations should have repercussions, according to your policy. Simple blunders can be remedied by speaking with HR and requesting that the offending post be removed. Other infractions may result in a warning, while others may result in immediate dismissal.
Include a dedicated email address, human resources point person, or a chat group for employees to go to if they have issues concerning social media. Check to see if your HR software can assist you in keeping everything connected to your social media policy in one location.
HOW TO CREATE A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Follow these steps to create a policy that serves your needs:
- Assemble a team that includes essential stakeholders such as communications, marketing, sales, and HR.
- Have team members go online and look for sample policies to discuss what you like and don’t like.
- Write in a straightforward manner that fits your brand.
- Use examples to demonstrate important topics.
- Consult a lawyer about your coverage.
- Publish your policy in your employee handbook and on your company’s intranet.
- Review your policy regularly to keep up with the ever-changing social media landscape.
- Introduce your policies with a brown bag lunch or other types of training to ensure that queries are answered.
LEAD THE WAY
Your social media policy is the lighting and lane markers that keep traffic flowing without incident on the freeway that runs through the heart of your brand.
Employees who advocate your brand, consumers who engage with it, and public infrastructure that promotes who you are and what you stand for are all advantages for brands that keep ahead of the social flow.