As social media has grown, it has changed how businesses advertise and engage with customers. It can be an excellent tool for marketing and getting your brand into the world. But, this tool has its downsides. Time spent on social media sites during work hours can mean less work. Employees may also make comments about your business on social media that could bring issues later. You can mitigate these issues by having a social media policy at your business to provide some guidelines for your employees. This article will explain:

  • what a social media policy is; and
  • why you may need one and suggest some issues to cover in your policy.

What Is a Social Media Policy?

A social media policy’s purpose is to provide some guidelines for your staff regarding their social media usage, concerning:

  • how they use social media at work;
  • what they say about your business on social media; and
  • your business’s reputation on social media.

It is crucial to balance respecting your employees’ rights to freedom of speech and protecting your business on social media. You do not want to intrude overtly into their personal lives, but you also want to avoid damaging your business’s reputation online.

Tip: Before making your social media policy official and mandatory for staff, get their feedback on your initial draft. This means that they know you are listening to their opinions, and you can develop a fair policy for everyone.

Does My Business Need a Social Media Policy?

If your business is small with only you and a couple of staff, you may not need something as formal as a social media policy. But as your business grows and you hire more employees, it can be helpful to set some ground rules for social media in your workplace. If not, you can run into problems such as:

  • loss of productivity during work hours;
  • damage to your business’ reputation through defamatory statements employees may make online;
  • cyber-bullying in the workplace;
  • information and confidentiality breaches; and
  • legal liability regarding what your employees say using your social media accounts, such as giving customers incorrect advice.

You can avoid these problems by letting your employees know what is and is not appropriate behaviour on social media in relation to your business.

What Should I Cover in My Social Media Policy?

It is up to you how you want to handle social media in your workplace. Some businesses outright ban social media. Others allow personal use of social media, as long as it is reasonable. Smartphones make it difficult for a complete social media ban, so be aware of this.

In essence, your social media policy should include:

  • a statement about its purpose, outlining the potential risks and what you want to prevent;
  • a definition of social media in context. You want to make sure this definition is broad enough to cover the variety of platforms the internet provides;
  • what a breach of the policy looks like;
  • how employees can report a breach; and
  • the consequences of that breach.

You should cover substantive issues and tailor them to your business’ context as appropriate. Some potential topics are set out below. 

Establishing Rules

You should make it clear to employees what is inappropriate behaviour online, and what your business will not allow. If employees make disparaging comments about your business online, outline the consequences.

You also need to let your employees know what you will be monitoring, and how you do so.

Handling Business Social Media Accounts

When employees post on behalf of your business, be clear about what content is appropriate. Posting pictures of the Christmas work party may be okay, but commenting on political events on Twitter might not.

Social Media in the Workplace

Make sure you:

  • establish how employees should use social media and their personal devices while at work; and
  • define what personal use is reasonable if you allow it, and what is not.

Interacting With Customers On Social Media

Provide clear guidelines for responding to customers on social media, particularly if your staff need to respond to customer complaints.

Bullying and Harassment

Make clear that you will not tolerate any cyber-bullying of other employees, and detail the consequences of such harassment.

Sharing Business Information

Stress the importance of protecting confidential business information and being careful about what your employees share online.

Privacy

You should:

  • detail how you protect the privacy of the business and its customers, and what your employees’ privacy obligations are; and
  • stress the need for gaining the permission of anyone in photos or videos that employees post on the business’ social media accounts.

For example, if your staff interview people on the street for promotional purposes, make sure that they have consented to you posting their image on social media.

Key Takeaways

The prevalence of social media means that your business will engage with it somehow, and that includes your employees. If you have guidelines in place about what is appropriate conduct on social media and what is not, you can avoid some of the setbacks that social media may cause for your business. If you would like more information or guidance for your business’ social media policy, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand online business lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

FAQs

What is a social media policy?

A social media policy outlines how your business treats social media, including how employees can use it in the workplace, as well as how you engage with customers using the business’s social media accounts.

What should be in a social media policy?

You can cover a variety of topics in your social media policy, as it suits your business context. Issues can range from outlining consequences for coworker cyberbullying and harassment to what employees can say when they talk to customers on social media.

Why is a social media policy important?

A social media policy is important because it provides guidelines for your staff about what is appropriate usage of social media in the workplace. It can also be a guide for customer engagement and marketing on social media.

Should my business interact with customers on social media?

Interacting and engaging with customers can be a good way to build your business’s reputation, and market for your brand. But, make sure that you are polite and courteous, and do not engage in discussions or comments that could harm your business’s image.

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