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Tips on social media for small business: #2 Social Media Policy

ImageThis is a series about starting up social media marketing for SMEs.  In the previous post I talked about the importance of social media to small and medium size enterprises: how doing it right can connect your business to customers and your community, but many smaller businesses are struggling to market themselves over social channels. But whether or not your company is using social media yet, you can bet your employees are.  That's where a social media policy comes in.




Setting a social media policy so your employees know exactly what is expected of them is essential.  Many good examples can be found at  Take a look through to find an organisation with a similar profile to your own and use an example you like as a template for your own.  For example, I highly rate the BBC guidelines as a template for media organisations because of their need for absolute impartiality, and understanding of how social works. A random example from the BBC guidance to news editors:

You shouldn't state your political preferences or say anything that compromises your impartiality. Don't sound off about things in an openly partisan way. Don't be seduced by the informality of social media into bringing the BBC into disrepute. Don't criticise your colleagues. Don't reveal confidential BBC information. Don't surreptitiously sanitise Wikipedia pages about the BBC.

In a B2B business like mine, client confidentiality is key, and a large part of our social media policy was constructed to ensure that none of our staff's social media profiles - LinkedIn for example - mention any specific projects by name, and that there is no sharing, however innocently, of confidential client information.

If those are are a few too many to chose from, Hubspot have here narrowed the field a little by casting a critical eye over the social media policies of Best Buy, Oracle, Ford, Walmart and IBM.

Here are some things you may wish to consider when drafting your social media policy:

Personal use of social media

  • How much time is 'okay' to spend on personal social media during work hours?
  • Is it OK for staff to state they work for the company in their profiles?
  • Do they need a disclaimer that these are not the company views?
  • Do they know what constitutes 'confidential client information'? Does that include ANY third party organisation such as partners, suppliers etc?
  • If they wouldn't say it to a journalist, don't say in a social network.
  • What goes online stays there forever. Think before you hit that ‘send’ button.
  • Don't post personal information about any colleagues unless they have prior permission to do so - this includes uploading pictures from the office party to Facebook.

Professional use of social media on behalf of the company (or its clients):

  • Understand the ethos of the online communities you communicate with, and act accordingly.
  • Be sure you're entering into a social network or community which is appropriate for the organisation or brand.
  • You may be required to disclose who you are and who you work for: never pretend to be someone or something you are not.  That also means no astro-turfing, fake Facebook profiles or 'likes' etc.
  • Respect the privacy and contact preferences of each individual you interact with, where available.
  • Make sure you confine your conversations primarily to work-related topics (although bear in mind that it can be good to show a human side too) - and obey dinner party rules at all times.


  • If your guidelines are updated, then make sure that all employees have seen and agreed to the revisions.
  • It should also be made clear to employees that breach of the social media code may constitute a breach of employment or contractual obligations, misconduct, sexual harassment, discrimination, or some other contravention of the law, and that hose who fail to comply with this policy may face disciplinary action and, in serious cases, termination of their employment or engagement. 
  • You need to make it someone's responsibilty to 'police' the social media output of the company.  How rigorously this is done depends on the size of the company and its resources, but a couple of places to start could be to have a list within Tweetdeck or Hootsuite with staff Twitter handles, and set up Google and twilerts alerts for employee names. In all honesty, monitoring employee activity for contraventions is a headache, and please add suggestions in comments for good tools or methods suitable for a SME. (Thanks by the way, to @mediaczar for suggesting I add these points about monitoring and enforement to the post)
  • As an employer, most countries would consider that you don't have a right to ask for the keys to employees social media profiles: currently going through US Law is the Password Protection Act of 2012 which looks to protect employees from employers asking for access to their social networking accounts.
  • If you use Googlemail - or your customers do - then be very sure that all social media profiles attached to that address are squeaky clean. Plug-ins like Rapportive could be sending out your latest Facebook status update or sarcastic tweet to all new customers.
  • Treat your employees well and they'll have less reason to use your Twitter account against you ...


Next in this series of tips on social media for small business: How to organise your social media accounts.


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