Blurred Lines: Avoid crises through social media policy

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke aren’t the only ones blurring lines. The lines between employees and businesses on social media are getting fuzzier by the day. From the President of the United States to sports journalists, it seems there’s a new story about social media posts every day.

So, how can you protect your employees and your organization? A clear, defined social media policy can make the difference between a crisis and a hiccup.

First things first. It’s important to note that a social media policy should include a policy for the organization’s official accounts and a policy for employees. There will definitely be overlap between the two, but each will have different details.

1. Rules
A clear outline of the organization’s expectations for behavior – both personal and professional – should be the first part of your social media policy. While not exhaustive list, you should include the following:

  • Branding: How to talk about your organization
  • Etiquette/Engagement: How you want employees to respond to mentions of your organization – both positive and negative
  • Confidentiality: A clear definition of what information should not be shared on social media

2. Roles
Outline who is responsible for which action. Charts are often helpful for this because the nature of social media requires so many steps. From message approval to security and legal concerns, consider each interaction and which role is ultimately responsible.

3.     Potential legal risks
Speaking of legal concerns, social media policies should include guidelines for handling areas of potential concern. Most importantly, consult your organization’s legal counsel in the drafting of these policies: privacy disclosures, employee disclaimers, and crediting sources.

4.    Security risks
Social media security risks are part of being connected. Your social media policy should curb these risks by teaching staff about threats, how to avoid them, and what steps to take in the event of an attack. Include tips for creating secure passwords, avoiding scams and spam, and how to respond in an attack happens. Work with your information technology team to get the most up-to-date information.

5.    Liability
In the end, each individual is responsible for what they post online. Include a reminder to exercise caution. When discussing social media with staff, I pose the following: Would you want what you’re about to post to be broadcast on national television or printed in a national newspaper? If the answer is no, then don’t post it.

When creating your policy, consider input from your team. Getting their buy-in will make it easier to implement. Be sure to avoid being too focused on specifics for various channels. Social media changes too quickly and by the time you finish your specifics, a new platform may take over the old. Finally, be mindful of your wording. A list of DON’Ts is discouraging and often resented.

For detailed examples of good social media policies, check out Social Media Governance’s compiled list here. Below are a few of my favorite resources:

Society for Human Resources Management
Ford Motor Company
Best Buy
Associated Press
Mayo Clinic

--> Extra credit: This article from Inc. Even though it’s from 2010, there are great points.



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