Are social media policies necessary?

Social media has become a mainstream communication method. Risks on how your employees use and communicate on social media may be a concern for many employers.

A company can be put in an embarrassing or damaging position by an employee’s behaviour or action on social media.

Therefore, preventing or mitigating such risks must be taken into consideration and put on an employer’s agenda. A social media policy is what would provide guidelines to employees on how to make the best use of social media, during and out of working hours. The main aim of the policy should be there to protect the employee and the organisation.

What types of policies exist?

Employers may consider three types of social media policies:

  1. For employees who use social media to communicate officially on behalf of the company,
  2. For out of hours conduct, by employees, on social media, and,
  3. Use of social media during work hours.

A social media policy gives the opportunity for employers to restrict or ban employees from behaving disrespectfully online or posting inaccurate or false content online. Other employers use such policies to restrict employees from using social media during working hours. Deciding on whether you should have a social media policy and what guidelines it should consider, depends on what the principal risks are, that is, what you are concerned about.

What should be included in the policy?

 These are only a few guidelines as to what can be considered in the company’s social media policies.

  • Which social media channels can and cannot be used during work hours. This may depend on the department or function the employee has.
  • Who can and cannot write on behalf of your company on social media. The degree of freedom you want to give to your employees very much depends on your line of business and products/service line.
  • How social media can and cannot be used between colleagues.
  • What is considered to be private and confidential for the business.
  • Ways to keep social media accounts secure and protected.
  • What the boundaries are between personal and professional lives. This should include clear guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to be shared, written or posted on social media. You may wish to provide training to your employees on how to use social media – both in terms of their personal brand as well as your and their professional brand. 

When writing the policy, the organisation culture needs to be considered. There are many sample social media policies online which can be copied, but it is important that it is customised to your business. Employers may set up a taskforce or committee to develop this policy. This would involve a team, made up of managers and employees from different departments, to analyse the company’s online presence, identify past successes and failures and understand how the company’s culture can be best portrayed online (and more specifically, on social media).

And like any other policy, it is important to review it on an annual basis.

About the author

Maria Bartolo Zahra is Managing Director and HR Advisor at SurgeAdvisory. She has over fifteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.