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Three “Must Haves” for a Social Media Policy

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.

Join The Conversation

  • May 9 Posted 6 years ago Ballywho

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

  • May 9 Posted 6 years ago Ballywho

    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. 

  • May 9 Posted 6 years ago Ballywho

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

  • May 2 Posted 6 years ago Alan Belniak (not verified)

    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.

  • CatarinasWorld's picture
    May 1 Posted 6 years ago CatarinasWorld

    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. 



  • Courtney Hunt's picture
    Apr 29 Posted 6 years ago Courtney Hunt

    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

  • Apr 28 Posted 6 years ago David Landon (not verified)




    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!


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