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Key considerations when developing an enterprise social media policy

15 September 2016 | 10:59 am

Social media policyThe rapid evolution of social media over the last decade has caught many organisations off guard, with many adapting rapidly to ensure they are present in this ever-changing space.

When social media first emerged organisations were using the channel primarily for sales promotion to push their products and services. Over the following few years, organisations realised the potential of building relationships and brand loyalty, ‘fans not followers’. With many social networks being formed for over a decade, organisations use of social media has evolved to one of enterprise, an evolution to cater for the demanding needs of the modern day customer; information hungry, instantaneous and influential.

Complex social media models are developing, incorporating multiple departments, multiple social media networks, multiple accounts and multiple people having access (and control) over an organisation’s social media channels. Although an exciting opportunity to deliver multiple messages, communicate with multiple audiences and provide more sales opportunities, it also scales the potential risks that an organisation can face. Organisations need to ensure that they are prepared, protected and supportive of an enterprise social media approach.

Social media policies play a pivotal role in providing a layer of protection for organisations when delivering enterprise social media. Below are six P’s to consider when developing an enterprise social media policy.

  1. Purpose

Probably an obvious one, but you need to clearly state the purpose of the social media policy and what your organisation wishes to achieve by using social media. Coca Cola provides a strong introduction to their social media policy reinforcing the importance of having a presence on social media, whilst ensuring that participation is done in the right way.

  1. People

The very nature of enterprise social media is a complex environment involving multiple departments. When developing a social media policy it’s important to liaise with each department to ensure that the policy is fit for purpose for different job roles. This will help encourage support and buy-in, as each department will have ownership in developing the policy. 

  1. Positive

Many social media policies focus on the negatives and are restrictive, going against the nature of social media being a channel for sharing. It’s important to show your employees what they can do (as well as what they can’t). A social media policy needs to empower your employees to feel confident in using social media; their involvement in supporting your social media delivery can have a significant impact on its success. Read our blog on employee advocacy and social media here.

  1. Personal vs professional

An important consideration is to allow your employees the opportunity to keep their personal and professional lives separate. Although this can often be challenging with a survey showing that 40% of employees feel compelled to have to accept friend requests from colleagues. This article from the Harvard Business Review discusses a number of different strategies your employees could take. Your policy needs to be flexible to provide guidelines on what is acceptable and unacceptable on both personal and professional social media. Although privacy settings can go some way to protecting employees privacy it is important to remember that nothing on social media truly stays private and that common sense and clear judgement need to be applied before posting!

Nb. You may have spotted many individuals posting disclaimers ‘Views are my own’. This legally has no standing and it’s important to remember that often tweets are seen in isolation (without people seeing the bio). Even with these disclaimers, there have been examples where employees have lost their jobs due to their social media activity.

  1. Protection

When drafting your social media policy it’s important to bear in mind that it is there to not only protect your organisation but also to protect your employees. Make sure you seek legal and HR counsel to ensure that your policy is compliant with your industry requirements and also matches up to current HR practice. It is also important to cross check with existing IT policies ensuring that there is consistent messaging across your policies. Ignorance is no longer an excuse, with many regulating bodies issuing fines for poor social media governance and practice.

  1. Policing

The final P in our six P’s of social media policy is policing. Many social media policies are developed and sit tucked away in a file gathering dust. Given the evolving nature of social media two years is practically two decades. It’s important to review your social media policy at least every six months. In addition to this, regular training needs to be provided to your employees to ensure they are up to speed with the latest privacy settings of the social media networks, as well as current examples of best practice on social media.

There you have it, our six P’s of social media policy. When developing your enterprise social media policy although there is plenty of important information to include, try to keep it short and sweet as you need to ensure that your employees read it through thoroughly and remember the key principles! If as an organisation you wish to truly embrace social media and capitalise on it’s opportunities, your social media policy needs to become an integral part to your organisation’s governance. A good start is to include it as part of your employee induction and appraisal processes.

Although focused on organisations from across the pond, this website provides more than 300 social media policy examples, a good starting point for ideas. However it’s important to remember that your social media policy cannot be cut and pasted from elsewhere and needs to be tailored to your organisation’s values, social media strategy and be compliant with UK law.

Lastly, common sense should not be forgotten and can go along way!

Case Study: Learn how Serco Leisure maximise social media marketing

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