An online presence is crucial for building awareness about your brand. Even more so when we seem headed towards a future of remote teams and virtual workplaces. Many small businesses have managed to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking their services and sales online.
Depending on the needs of your business, you may be using the social media to promote your services and reach out to potential customers.
But things can get out of hand very quickly on the Internet. One thoughtless tweet by an employee on a sensitive issue or poor handling of angry feedback may damage the reputation of your brand.
This is why it is important that you create a policy to protect your small business from potential social media faux pas.
What is a social media policy?
Simply put, it is a policy that lays down the code of conduct your employees are expected to observe while posting content on the Internet at all times.
Your policy should also set guidelines for employees appointed to share content on behalf of the company. Social media includes social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
What are the benefits of having a social media policy?
Establishing a set of guidelines will let your staff know how they are expected to behave online. While you cannot control what your employees post on their personal social media accounts, it is useful to make them aware that what they post also reflects on the company.
It is also helpful to define what sort of content or remarks are offensive and not acceptable. An official policy will minimize the risk of inappropriate social media use.
A well-defined social media policy will also inform your staff of the consequences of breaching the set code of conduct. Ensure that you share the policy with all your employees and that they are aware of its provisions. A social media policy will also help you build a healthy work culture.
What to include in a social media policy?
You can create a social media policy customized to your business needs. We advise that you:
Identify the scope of the policy
Define what you mean by social media. It should include not just social networking websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, but also industry forums, message boards, blogs, podcasts and so on. Make it clear that it applies to all employees.
Set guidelines for sharing content from official accounts
If you have designated employees to post content on behalf of the company, you should also set guidelines for them to follow.
Separate personal and professional
Advise employees to avoid referencing the company on their personal social media accounts unless it is a professional platform such as LinkedIn. You may also wish to clarify in the policy whether employees can spend time on personal social media accounts during work hours.
State the consequences of violating the policy
Specify that in cases where an employee’s personal social media posts negatively affect the company, you will investigate and take necessary disciplinary action, which may include dismissal.
Unacceptable content may include disparaging comments about the company or colleagues, use of social media to harass or bully co-workers. Remarks that are racist, sexist, threatening or malicious would also invite punitive measures. Posts that disclose confidential information about the company would also fall under this category.
It is important that you review and update the policy on a regular basis.
How to handle a violation of the policy?
If the company’s social media policy specifies what content is unacceptable, employers may be able to take disciplinary action in case of a violation.
To justify the disciplinary action, you should be able to prove that the content the employee posted violated company policies, or that it negatively affected the workplace.
Depending on the seriousness of the violation, you may decide to either issue a warning or consider more severe action.