Social media policy: should your business have one?

News, stories, and events have been communicated via social channels for millennia. According to Tom Standage, deputy editor at The Economist and author of ‘Writing on the Wall,’ a book on ancient social media, some forms of social media date back to the Roman era.

By comparison, social media as we know it is only a few years old, but it has significantly changed the way we communicate. Its hyper-decentralized nature, with the narrative driven by the combination of millions of smaller voices rather than the behemoths of traditional print and television media, make it both harder to manipulate and more effective (and less expensive) when effectively utilized.

It also means negative messages and information that could impact your business travel fast. As a result, the lines between personal and professional communication have become blurred, requiring businesses to implement social media policies.

While there has been an increase in the implementation of social media policy, a study published last year indicates that 77% of business executives polled were concerned about how social media could impact their businesses but only 33% had some form of social media policy in place.

Social media requires a two-pronged approach: the guidelines and expectations for your employees in their own personal use, and your company’s approach to its social media. Here’s why:

  • What an employee does or says reflects on you – Many people identify themselves on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter by their job, which is fine when they’re on message, making you look good, and everything is going fine. But off the clock, an employee’s negative social media lifestyle choices–be they references to over-consumption of alcohol, illegal use of drugs, poor decisions like drunk driving or other illegal activity, or abusive or offensive language–all reflect on your company. In other cases, an employee’s participation in a political or religious discussion could cast a negative light on your company.
  • To clarify expectations – An employee’s idea of responsible social media usage may not match management’s expectations. By clearly defining what is allowed and what is prohibited, you avoid any ambiguity that could cause conflict or embarrassment in the future. Such a policy also deprives a wayward employee of the ability to claim ignorance when reprimanded.
  • To provide a pre-emptive deterrent – Clearly laying out social media expectations does more than protect you in case of an infraction. Having a social media policy and actively propagating it can deter employees from alerting the world to the worst of their less-than-wholly-professional moments.

Despite its pitfalls, social media remains a valuable tool for doing business in an increasingly digital world.

  • Social media connects you with the people actively discussing your industry.
  • It’s a free means to keep in touch with your clients.
  • It creates voluntary connections with potential new business.
  • It allows you to rapidly respond to any customer service issues.
  • It allows you to help shape the public perception of your company.

We can help you put a harness on that social media beast and have it work for you instead of against you. Don’t hesitate to ask us how today.