Workplace social media policy: protecting yourself and your employees

Now that social media is not only ingrained in our everyday lives, but also imperative to the promotion of businesses — large or small — it’s become a significant factor to include in any workplace policy.

A workplace social media policy should set out clear guidelines that make the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable use of social media in the workplace, and also usage that may jeopardise the reputation of your business.

Embrace the possibilities

A workplace social media policy should reiterate the benefits of appropriate social media use, and encourage this in line with organisational goals. Social media is an effective way of promoting your brand, product and/or service, and providing support, feedback and communication with customers. Many workplaces also encourage social media networking between colleagues, clients and other company contacts on platforms such as LinkedIn.

What to include in your workplace social media policy:

The first thing to consider is setting guidelines to protect the way your company is perceived. Like it or not, employees are representing your company both during work hours and also out in the community, so frame the policy to reflect your company values.

Be clear about what your definition of social media includes

What type of online activity is considered ‘social media’? The first channels that come to mind are sites like Facebook and Twitter, but when compiling a workplace social media policy don’t forget blogs, forums, photo and video sharing websites, and other sites that allow networking and social interaction between individuals. Social media is constantly evolving, and new sites are emerging all the time, so make sure to adjust your code of conduct accordingly.

Be clear about behaviours that are acceptable and unacceptable

Set out clear expectations and boundaries and conditions of use. This should cover appropriate language, the dissemination of confidential information, and the bullying and harassment of other staff. You should also address use in the workplace and set clear rules around when social media websites can be accessed during work hours.

Logistics company, Linfox, was recently ordered to reinstate and back-pay an employee they’d dismissed for making inappropriate comments on Facebook because they didn’t effectively communicate their social media strategy to him. It’s vital each employee understands and signs off on the company policy to avoid these issues down the track.

Breach of policy has consequences

The workplace social media policy for your business should set out the consequences of breaching the guidelines. Disciplinary action should take into account the audience and the severity of the behaviour.

Get professional advice

When compiling a social media policy, it’s a good idea to consult your legal representative to ensure you’re protecting your business while still respecting the privacy of your employees. You need to also ensure that the guidelines you’re setting are enforceable and appropriate for your business, while allowing employees freedom of speech.

Workplace social media policies are still a relatively new concept, and as such, should be constantly evaluated and discussed to find the best model to protect your business and the satisfaction of your employees.

Tags: policies and procedures, social media

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