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Should you implement a social media policy?

Should you implement a social media policy?

When your employees are on social networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – they are also, effectively, the face of your business. Most employees only want to do the right thing by the company, but can you always rely on their common sense to keep your company's reputation safe?

Here's how to decide if it's time to spell out your expectations when it comes to their use of online media.

Personal versus professional usage

Most social platforms allow their users to hide their posts from public view. However, the line separating work and leisure is routinely blurred, and we often have colleagues among our friends and followers.

O’Keefe v Williams Muir’s Pty Ltd is an example of the consequences that can arise when an employee uses social media as a platform for airing workplace grievances. Despite the worker’s argument that only a small group of Facebook users could see his threatening comments towards a co-worker, several work colleagues were members of that group.

In most cases, social media usage won’t go to these extremes – especially if you have worked to create an open and supportive company culture. But being aware of the potential risks will help you guard against them, just in case.

You don’t want your employees to feel they are being watched around the clock, but your social media policy should make it clear that comments made in private accounts could lead to disciplinary action, if they constitute threats or other remarks that could damage the company’s image.

Protecting your privacy

You are taking a risk every time you allow employees to share information about your company without the guidance of clear social media policies. Even a casual photo of a private work area or storeroom could breach your privacy rules, so it’s a good idea for your confidentiality agreement to cover social media use.

There may also be legal risks to consider. For example, your confidentiality rules may ban discussion of upcoming projects and products with non-employees before they become public. If you’re unsure of the best action to take in these cases, consult with a trusted legal advisor who is familiar with your business.

Use of employees’ devices

You will never be able to completely limit access to social media during work hours by smartphone-wielding employees, but for the sake of productivity, you may still want to place restrictions on the usage of such devices outside break periods.

Finding the right balance

A good way to safeguard company reputation is to ask employees to state on their social media profiles that their tweets or comments in no way reflect company views or policies. Keep in mind, however, that when you place strong limitations on your employees’ usage of social media, you are also limiting their ability to be truly effective ambassadors for your company.

Communication is the best policy

Often in cases that have resulted in extreme consequences, simple ignorance was to blame. Many employees aren’t aware that their behaviour on social media reflects on their employers. Consider conducting a training program to guide your staff on best practice within their own social networks as well as those belonging to the company. That way everyone will be covered and you’ll contribute to the transparent culture you’re trying to foster in your business.

For some more ideas on what could work best for your business, check out some of these social media policy examples.

If your workforce is particularly tech savvy, it might be a good idea to adopt an enterprise social network to encourage collaboration in a secure, closed environment. Here are some dos and don’ts for you to consider.

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