How your employees conduct themselves on social media can directly impact your business, making a social media policy a necessary addition to your employee handbook.
But they have a first amendment right to sound off on social with their opinions (dang constitution! Just kidding.) so you can’t, nor should you, get too hardcore with your policy.
So, what freedoms and restrictions should you give your employees in your social media policy?
Don’t forget this in your company social media policy
It is incredibly important to have a policy explaining to your employees your standards for how to present themselves on social media. However, a study by Pew Research Center reported 63% of employees say their employer does not have such policies.
Does it really make a difference though?
That same study by Pew reports workers decrease social media use for personal reasons while on the job if you have a policy in place. So, employees (at least some of them) are definitely paying attention to the handbook.
Beyond that, this is a way to cover your own butt. If one of your employees posts something awful on social media and someone tracks that employee to your business you can point to your social media policy and say, “This does not represent our values at all.”
However, the goal is to avoid that happening altogether. So, let’s take a look at how to write your policy to help accomplish that task.
How to write your company social media policy
The best social media policies are the ones that both protect your business and encourages your employees to talk about your company online.
Some of this is a no-brainer. You absolutely should remind them not to post anything that implies they are performing illegal activities, releases confidential information about your business or its customers, etc.
However, you also need to consider things like who is allowed to sound off during a crisis either for your company or in the world.
For example, Walmart’s policies and guidelines remind employees they “have a dedicated team tasked with responding to customer inquiries or criticism.”
What about when they want to share their thoughts on social media about something that’s happening outside of the workplace?
That’s where each business begins to differentiate.
Best Buy wants its employees to make it clear their opinions are theirs and may not represent the opinions of Best Buy.
Ultimately, you need to make a decision you believe is best for your company and employees.
What to do when an employee’s post is causing backlash
One of your employees posted something dumb and now it’s causing consumer backlash. Now what do you do?
OK, kidnapping isn’t the answer.
In an ideal situation, you have a crisis communication team or at least a plan in place for how to respond in a crisis situation. If you don’t, maybe just maybe you should come up with something like that now.
Either hire a public relations team *cough* 2oddballs! *cough* or begin drafting a plan to refer to in case something like this does occur.
- Evaluate and monitor the crisis — Having social listening tools like the ones we employ at 2oddballs can track all public comments surrounding your business
- Decide who responds to the crisis in every scenario
- Acknowledge the issue — Even if you don’t have an answer yet, you should at least say something like, “We are aware of _____ and will be taking appropriate measures to correct this incident.”
- Take those corrective measures
- Make a statement detailing what you’ve done
- Evaluate what happened and come up with a plan to prevent it happening again
Don’t forget to keep your employees up to date on everything as well. You should let them know what they can and cannot say about the crisis if asked about it by the public. Because they will be.
Implementing your policies
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, you need to get this carefully crafted piece of documentation looked at by a licensed attorney. We know, we know – you can hear the money flying out of your bank account now. But trust us, it’s best to be on the safe side with this one. While the legal protections afforded to citizens’ speech have traditionally been applied to encroachment from big bad government, there are nuanced legal caveats that could apply. For example, the law protects employees from employers who are trying to stifle their right to effectively organize. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act states:
“Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…”
It’s worth it to you to shell out a few bucks on the front end to have a lawyer give your freshly minted social media policy the stamp of approval.
If you put forth the effort to craft a well-thought-out social media policy and crisis response plan, you can sleep well at night knowing you’ve covered all your bases.
Social media doesn’t have to be a nightmare for your business. If you educate your employees on your standards but still allow them to have a voice on social media, it actually could mean more business for you.