Avoiding Social Media Mayhem

Tips to protect your company and employees with a strong social media policy
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People do stupid things on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter when their fingers move faster than their brain and they hastily hit send. For this reason, companies, as well as nonprofits, need established social media policies to protect their company’s reputation, employees and volunteers.

A social media policy is a set of instructions about how employees should interact professionally and personally when it comes to messaging about their company or work environment online.  Some companies, such as financial firms, have a simple policy: don’t do it during company time and on company equipment. Typically, employees are restricted to the platforms’ URLs while on the company server.

While usage on the clock is one matter to consider, the other is behavior on social platforms.

Social media policies are needed because they set expectations, protect the company’s brand, and can increase employee advocacy. No single strategy exists for all, and a company’s policy must match its corporate culture. You will find a tailored social media policy is the best approach for your needs.

The following are three best practices I recommend businesses consider when designing a social media policy.

  1. Keep the social media policy straightforward and accessible within the employee’s communication channels.
  2. Customize the guidelines based on different groups within the company. For example, a marketing employee’s guidelines may have different rules or expectations than someone in sales or accounting.
  3. Encourage positive behavior for sharing company-related news and offer examples of well-written posts and photographs people have posted in the past.

Since a social media policy has many variables, looking to other companies who have successfully created and implemented social media policies is a good place to start. Here are a few notable examples to inspire your company’s policy.

Simple Policies

Best Buy has guidelines that are straightforward and easily understood with two sections.  The policy clearly outlines behavioral do’s and don’ts.  The goal is to remove anything that may seem ambiguous. Best Buy allows its employees to post as long as the content is positive and does not hurt the company or brand.

Coca-Cola offers a great example of a clear-cut guidelines with variables for specific job functions within the company. Coke’s strategy is to customize employees’ requirements based their work responsibilities.

Complex Policies

Dell has six components to their comprehensive policy which offers a breadth of instruction how how employees should conduct themselves from a disclosure to clarification on the ownership of the company’s social channels.

Intel also has a in-depth policy featuring five parts and rules of engagement. In their policy three entire sections are devoted to disclosure issues demonstrating the importance of a policy in this space. The other two sections cover protecting trade secrets and using common sense when posting.

Don’t get bogged down in the details. Use the above company examples and pick what you like in each. If need more examples reference the policies of Adidas, Ford, IBM, Oracle, and Wal-Mart.

Remember: Keep your policy simple and easy to follow. Once your policy is written and distributed throughout the company, it should be updated and revised annually. Keep in mind that you want to protect the employees and the company’s culture. It is never too late to create, review, or update your social media policy. The only negative is not having one.

Pro Tip: As your company analyzes its social media policies, you can recommend that employees may want to evaluate their own social presence.  A great tool to clean up personal social media history online is  https://www.scrubber.social/.  In 60 seconds, Scrubber will find embarrassing posts, pictures, words, comments and statuses. Generally, people do not write anything with bad intentions, but friends may respond without thinking.


Ashley Keller Nelson

Ashley Keller Nelson joined the faculty of Tulane’s Freeman School of Business as a full-time communication professor in 2006.  In 2011, she started her social media class, and over the years, her students have worked with more than 40 local nonprofit organizations assessing, recommending, and implementing messaging for their social media partners.

Ashley is Tulane’s resident expert on the use of social media in business and nonprofits.  She has been featured in local and national news coverage on a variety of social media topics as they relate to communication during national disasters, user’s data breaches, Facebook and Google’s credibility issues, job searches and scrubbing social accounts, privacy and security concerns, Super Bowl ads, and teen addiction to social media, to name a few.

Ashley has an MBA from Tulane and a BBA from Southern Methodist University.  She consults with those who want to improve their presentation skills and companies who have strategic communication issues to solve.

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