We discuss the importance of creating a social media policy at your company. We will also explain how you should build your policy.
Cody: Welcome to the ComplianceBridge Podcast, your source for the latest on risk management and policy and procedure management. My name is Cody Miles and I’ll be your host for today’s episode.
Today, I’ll be joined by Kaylie Meek to discuss the importance of creating a social media policy at your company. We will also explain how you should build your policy to ensure it remains flexible while still offering your employees guidance and your company protection.
Welcome to the podcast, how are you?
Kaylie: Happy to be here!
Cody: Social media is an unavoidable and important aspect of doing business today and you must get it right. Every company and brand needs to curate a social media presence in order to interact with the public, share information with their customers, gain more exposure and grow their business. How does creating a social media policy help a company in these areas?
Kaylie: Well, for a company, there are no downsides to putting your brand out there – whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or wherever you find your audience. Even if a company has little to no presence online, though, your employees definitely do. A social media policy can help you on both fronts. It outlines how a business and its employees should conduct themselves online. This includes both the official social media channels of a company and guidelines for employees who are representing the brand online.
Cody: So, a social media policy is really a safeguard for companies?
Kaylie: Yes, it gives employees the tools to responsibly represent and share the message of a company online, and it helps companies create a consistent voice across all media channels.
Cody: One of the risks on the rise with so many business processes occurring on the web is cyberattacks, and social media platforms are an easy vulnerability to exploit by hackers. Huge organizations have fallen victim to hackers in the past including Amnesty International, HBO, The European Parliament, US Military Central Command and municipalities all over the world such as the City of Atlanta. Can creating and following a social media policy help on the cybersecurity front?
Kaylie: There are a lot of simple precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of cyberattacks on your company. For instance, in your policy, you can mandate that passwords for all social media accounts need to be changed at least twice a year. This can help protect you should a hacker come across your information compromised in past security breaches. Often, by the time a social media platform such as Facebook or Twitter announces that their users’ data has been hacked, it’s several months after the event.
You can take other proactive steps, as well. Don’t click on links that you don’t recognize. Closely monitor who has access to official company accounts. Don’t create accounts using personal email addresses. Clear your cache regularly. Stay on top of software updates. And, always log out of accounts when they aren’t in use. These guidelines can all be contained in a policy for employees.
Cody: So, a policy is helpful in setting standards for employees to help avoid mishandling of social media by outside actors. What about within the company itself? How does it guide employees using official accounts or representing the brand?
Kaylie: When people are conversing and sharing information online, it can be difficult to know when they’ve crossed a line or made a blunder. A social media policy gives clear rules on what employees can do and say and what they should avoid. For example, they shouldn’t share confidential information online. This can be names of customers, partners or suppliers or information regarding internal strategies and upcoming company announcements.
In your policy, you can also outline how employees should respond to mentions of your brand – whether they’re positive or negative – and what appropriate conduct online looks like. A good rule of thumb is to refer to any existing policies on anti-harassment or ethics. This means employees should avoid offensive language, controversial topics and situations where someone is trying to incite an argument.
Cody: Overall, what kind of impact do these guidelines have for the company?
Kaylie: The ultimate goal of an effective social media policy is to create a consistent voice. No matter where your audience interacts with you, the messaging, the tone, the delivery – it will always be the same. While we’re on this topic, I also want to point out the importance of media in the curation of your online presence. If media such as images, videos, GIFs or memes are being shared, you need to set standards that ensure it aligns with your brand. Some memes can be unintentionally offensive for instance, so employees should do their research and go through the proper approvals.
Cody: You mentioned that employees should go through the proper approval process. In the social media policy, what kinds of roles should companies define?
Kaylie: At the very least, a policy should identify an administrator who is responsible for managing social media and maintaining login credentials. You can also assign responsibilities such as post approval, monitoring social media channels, social engagement, crisis management, employee training and someone to address legal and security issues that arise. Clearly defining roles and assigning responsibilities beforehand will keep the process organized, lessen the chance of embarrassing or costly mistakes occurring and help you respond faster during a crisis.
Cody: When employees are online either at work or on their own time, how can the social media policy provide guidelines for situations not expressly under the company’s purview?
Kaylie: To avoid any blowback onto the company from what an employee says online, a good addition to any social media policy is a disclaimer. A disclaimer can be something as simple as: “the views represented here are my own and don’t necessarily represent those of my employer”, and they can include it anytime they are commenting online to content about your business and they are identified as an employee. It may also be applicable to publicly accessed bios on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Even with the inclusion of the disclaimer, employees should still be encouraged to conduct themselves responsibly online, both for the company’s benefit and their own.
Cody: Before we have to go – for those in the process of creating policies and procedures for social media use, what should they keep in mind?
Kaylie: Try not to get caught up in the details. Social media changes all the time – platforms go in and out of popularity, and the way we use them changes over time, as well. Instead of getting too specific and dictating guidelines for each social media channel, try to create a policy that can work across all platforms. The policy can be just a few pages that clearly lists the do’s and don’ts for your company and employees. However, try to focus on the affirmative – instead of telling people how not to act, outline how they can best act on behalf of your business.
Cody: Thank you for joining me today to help our listeners figure out what they need to consider in their own social media policies. Depending on the industry and the specific needs of your company, your policy may focus on different areas. By consulting those in your business who have a stake in your brand’s reputation and presentation, you can create a policy that meets your needs.
To better manage your policy creation process, implementing a policy management software such as TotalCompliance by ComplianceBridge will help you centralize and expedite collaboration amongst stakeholders. Quickly write, edit and approve policies in one place, and distribute them to your employees with ease. Reach out to us today and learn how we can help you with all of your policy management needs.