Three “Must Haves” for a Social Media Policy

.Elissa Nauful .CEO and Founder, .Ballywho Interactive

Posted on April 25th 2011

As social media use grows in leaps and bounds, CEOs and HR departments everywhere instinctively cringe at the potential time employees could waste perusing Facebook or retweeting on Twitter. This can’t be a productive use of work time, or can it? And if social media use is allowed in the work place, how much is too much? No matter the industry, social media is being accessed all around us. As a result, every company must inevitably establish a social media policy.

Now where to begin? As you consider crafting your guidelines, here are three “must-haves” for any social media policy.

Positive Presentation. The minds of most employers immediately leap to what they don’t want their employees doing on online. But a negative policy could discourage all that your company could gain from constructive social media use. Don’t forget how much good can come from smart, authentic employee updates. Keep the policy wording positive, list more “cans” than “can’ts,” and encourage employees to share, retweet and “like” whenever it is appropriate.

Clear Expectations. Regardless of how your company uses social media, your policy should be made crystal clear. Identify each popular social media outlet and explain what use is acceptable at your company. Obviously, companies are held liable for their employees’ behavior so be sure to review the legal consequences of social media use. That said, if an employee understands the policy but misuses social media, his behavior and professional judgment should be called into question, not their online use.

Flexibility. Social media is evolving all the time. As a result, your policy should, too. Stay on top of what’s new with social media and how it is being used. If your policy needs to be changed, change it –but be sure that all of your employees are made aware. Maybe you could post the changes on your private employee Facebook group? It’s an idea.


.Elissa Nauful

.CEO and Founder, .Ballywho Interactive

Elissa is the founder and CEO if Ballywho Interactive, an innovative social media marketing company dedicated to providing consistent and relevant messaging for your company in the social media space. We believe that social media is one of the most effective and tactical marketing solutions today. By harnessing the power of social media, coupled with great marketing and product experts we help you develop, maintain and grow your brand on the social web. Social media should a part of every marketer’s toolbox and finding effective ways to drive brand, sales and traffic is our specialty. Unparalleled client experience is our goal. Our service lines include web, social content writing, management and development of strategy through implementation and monitoring. We Speak Your Mind. ® Find out more by visiting our website: or email us at:
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Posted on April 28th 2011 at 9:00PM




Well I very much agree on your first three components, I would add a fourth. I know that it should be a best practice, and one that should not need to be "written", but employees need to know that it will be applied/enforced consistently throughout the organization and that it applies to everyone. Many employers that I have worked with have a policy, but it is not enforced equally, or at all. You could really fold this into one of the other three components, but I do think that it should be written.

Thank you!


Posted on May 9th 2011 at 6:47PM

Yes David, that's a very good point. Thank you!

Courtney Hunt
Posted on April 29th 2011 at 6:38PM

For an expanded treatment of this issue, readers might be interested in a piece I wrote entitled "Social Media Policies: Necessary but not Sufficient." It can be accessed via

Courtney Hunt - Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

Posted on May 1st 2011 at 3:56PM

Good article that I agree with. 

The main danger for companies is to get their reputation dented online by what employees write. But angry employees will be doing that in their spare time anyway. So restricting what they can do at work, will not have much of an impact. 

In today's world everybody, rightly or wrongly has an audience, on Facebook if nowhere else. 

The best thing a company can do st hence to make sure their internal communication is exceptionally good. If employees don't have ways of venting their anger or disappointment internally, that must be taken care of immediately.

Once employees get used to complaining internally you really shouldn't worry about social media networks but instead encourage your staff to use in beneficial ways. If necessary make staff sign NDAs. 



Posted on May 9th 2011 at 6:45PM

Catarina, we have run into a few employee venting problems. It's something that can be managed through a community manager. As long as you keep an eye on what is being said, and moderate the negativity you can squash a problem before it gets out of control. We have a system in place that starts with the CM. As soon as they spot a negative comment, the first thing we do is check to see if it's an employee. If that is the case then we take the comment down and alert the appropriate supervisors. 

Posted on May 2nd 2011 at 4:45PM

With respect to your first point: I co-wrote the social media interaction guidelines for my company.  I was adamant about the use of the word 'guideline' versus 'policy' for the reason you outline.  I didn't want it to read as a series of "you must not"; "you cannot"; "do not" items.  Instead, I wanted it to read as "yes, go forth and talk about the company. Here are a few things to keep in mind in social media land..."


So, it's all about semantics, but I think it's important.

Posted on May 9th 2011 at 6:40PM

Alan, I agree. Semantics are important and it is necessary to stress the positive rather than the negative.