Whether your company is active on social media, your employees probably are.  So you should have a policy.  Over the course of the last few years I have been involved in writing and reviewing a lot of social media policies around the world.  It is becoming clear that social media policies have some kind of anatomy.

Of course, there is not a “one size fits all” solution since every company has its own needs and wants.  I would like to share with you what I am seeing as best practice components in social media policies.

Here are the different sections one could have in a policy

1. Why do you have a social media policy?

In general employees do not like policies.  But protecting the reputation of your company is every employee’s duty and that is what a policy should attempt to achieve.  You can carve your policy in such a way that your employees are your ambassadors

2. What is social media?

Most of your employees have a limited view of what social media really is.  It is more than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  A good definition of what you as company understand under social media will help you set the scene.

3. Which social media and networks are we talking about?

It is good idea to name the major different social media platforms, what they are best used for and what the benefits and dangers are.

4. To whom does the policy apply?

Different types of people are working in companies.  Of course you have employees of which some are spokespeople.  Many companies also employ contractors or free-lancers and you need to decide whether your policy will also apply to these people.  You might need a contract for them.

5. How to get access to social media?

In some companies you still need to ask permission to access the internet and/or social media. We tend to think that this practice is becoming extinct but still many companies block access to social media for the majority of their employees under the umbrella of "productivity loss."  That is what the social media policy is trying to address.

6. Definition of Terms

In this section you will define the difference between policy and guideline, personal vs professional use, employee vs spokesperson, etc.

7. Social Media Policy

It is clear that some items must be policy (use of logo’s, spokepeople, disclaimers, creation and ownership of accounts, etc.)

  • For spokespeople
  • For employees
  • For contractors

8. Social Media guidelines

The social media guideline will help your employees protect their own reputation and thus also the reputation of the company.  In this section you will find items such as authenticity, correct errors, honesty, suggestion of identity and email addresses, etc.

9. Where can you your company on social media? And how are you using it?

Do not assume that your employees know what social media you are using as a company.  A lot of companies do not mention their accounts on website and leave it up to their employees to discover where they are.  This practice will make sure that all your employees know what the official accounts are.

It is also a best practice to tell your employees what you are using these social media accounts for.  Let’s call it leading by example.

10. How do you handle mentions (positive and negative)?

We all know that companies and people are talked about.  Many companies have some kind of social media monitoring but many more do not.  So if your employees who can be your eyes and ears in social media (provided they are your ambassadors) see any message, they need to know what the procedure is to handle these mentions or posts.

11. Where do you get help for your Social Media

As companies are gearing up for social media, it is also a good idea to setup a help desk or a social media help account (which could be any employee within the company).  Indicate in your policy who these people are and where you can get the necessary training.

12. Tips and tricks

Nothing works better to create ambassadors than provide tips and trick so you should include examples with tips and tricks.

I understand that including all these sections can lead to a long document that people might not read which brings me to a final point about a social media policy.  The key to success is the roll out phase. That’s the moment where you can create a simple hand-out or give-away that supports the introduction and announcement of the policy.  You can really get creative with this and get a lot of support for your policy.

I would love to hear your comments and feedback.