Should You Have a Social Media Policy in Place?

Gina Deveney
Posted by in Human Resources

With the spread of mobile technology such as tablets and smartphones to a growing percentage of the population, you may be wondering if your company needs a social media policy. Social media horror stories drive home the importance of employee oversight to protect your brand, but it is important not to stifle employees who want to share their passion for your products. Consider a minimal policy that meets your company's legal needs without being overprotective.

A social media policy provides employees with guidance on how to talk about company-related issues and interact with the public through social media platforms. Policies vary from a simple line in the employee handbook asking for caution when talking about the company in public media arenas to detailed documents stating exactly which online behavior and specific language are acceptable. The best policies do not go overboard. An overly detailed social media policy discourages the creativity, collaboration and natural free publicity that come with quality social media usage. Good social media policies simply remind employees to use a combination of discretion and honesty when talking about company issues online. Many policies also encourage employees to keep an eye on their privacy settings and to avoid sharing personal information that could reflect poorly on the company in public posts.

The best policies include an education component, such as an online presentation that shows how to put the social media policy into effect or a required seminar where employees discuss social media issues. When instituting a new social media policy or making changes, training increases compliance and helps employees to understand nuances that are difficult to put into words. All new employees should receive education on the social media policy as part of their initial training.

When crafting a company social media policy, keep in mind the purpose of social media. In addition to free publicity, social media provides outreach to current and potential clients and business associates. Social media interactions build interest in your company and open discussions about important issues that can lead to company innovations and impromptu problem solving. Overly detailed policies and stifling social media oversight fuel employee anxiety, which reduces employee social media usage and can harm your company in the long-term.

Ultimately the company's official social media channels are responsible for properly portraying your brand, so make sure that the official channels exist and are up-to-date. Every business should have someone who is responsible for maintaining social media accounts and responding to customer concerns presented at company sites. Timely responses minimize harm from any mistakes that occur and show that your company cares about its clients' experiences.

Remember that no social media policy will prevent all mistakes from happening. A quick company response to mishaps is the best way to preserve your company's reputation. Let employees know whom to talk to if they have questions about what is acceptable to post, and encourage them to come forward if mistakes are made. Social media oversight is just as important as an official social media policy.


(Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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