The majority of your employees and businesses may be on social media... everyone on your staff should be made aware of the things they can and can't say that may have a negative effect on your business brand.
Why? Because otherwise you are courting disaster.
While a company 'social media guideline' will generally want to lay down some hard and fast rules for your staff to live by while online, these rules could also be required by law or for legal protection depending upon your profession/industry. So you should check with your industry body to make sure you have all of your details correct before proceeding. But realistically... they shouldn’t be used to police the people that work for you.
When done right your 'social media guidelines' can empower employees with the information they need to make all the right choices on social media.
In today's post let's look at the differences of the two - then, why you need a guideline in the first place - and talking about the long term reasons for doing so by staying complaint with the policy.
BEFORE we start though - Let's look at some basic Cyber Security:
It’s a good idea to REGULARLY go over cyber safety basics with your staff, especially since hacks and ransomware attacks are so prevalent - at least once a year - if not twice!
Threats of all kind are not uncommon today.
AND... If you collect information about your customers, it is vitally important that you and your employees protect those details.
Not showing screens or paper work in video or photo posts is a GREAT way NOT to reveal information (I say this from personal experience!)
Some basic cyber safety tips you should cover are:
- Limit the personal and professional information you share online.
- Choose strong passwords - Seriously strong passwords - and change them regularly.
- Use a different password for every social account - again - make sure you change them regularly.
- Don’t use the same passwords for your corporate accounts as your social accounts - this should be obvious, but I have noted some people using the same login for their computer, their social media AND their banking - just don't do it!
- Use two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication to login to social networks - I highly recommend this to everyone!
- Use personal credentials for personal social media accounts - obviously those who set the account up - and/or your credentials.
- Only activate geolocation services on apps when necessary, otherwise have them turned off (I'm looking at YOU Google Maps!)
- Practice safe browsing - this should be a given, but seriously - it needs to be said!
- Make sure your Internet connection is secure, again changing passwords and checking who or what devices are connected to it.
- Do not download or click on ANY suspicious content - from links sent to you over social media - to emails - just !BE SAFE!
- And also don't EVER react to or do and online Harassment, Bullying or Inciting - ANY action at all on your business or personal account opens you up for legal action - just don't do it!
Most guidelines remind staff to be kind on social media. It’s important to promote positivity online.
And, businesses should also make it VERY clear that they do not tolerate any form of social media harassment - from staff or from customers.
Therefore, it’s also important to provide every employee protocol or resources to use if anything should happen. That’s especially true if your company encourages social media use. Define your policy for dealing with trolls or bullies—whether it’s to report them, ignore them, or block or ban them.
Tell people how to report issues they may have seen or experienced. If support is needed, tell employees how and where they can get it.
OKAY, So Let's Get Started:
What is the difference's between a SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY and SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES?
While sometimes a social media policy is thought to cover both a policy and a guideline... it doesn't.
Basically: 'Social media policy' will lay out the rules and repercussions for breaking them, 'social media guidelines' are more instructive for individual employees. Think of both of them as separate employee manuals for social media best practices.
Your 'Social Media Guidelines' should outline how to behave on social media in a way that’s positive and healthy for your company, employees, and customers. It may include etiquette tips, helpful tools, and links to important resources - both in-house, industry, and legally.
ALSO: Social media guidelines should also not be confused with the often rare, but very useful: 'social media style guide'.
A style guide includes guidelines on brand voice, visuals, and other elements. It is often used by the content creators in an organization to ensure that their posts are “on brand” - I highly recommend this for any and every brand on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc to keep every message out there, sounding the same.
Why you need social media guidelines for your business
Remember, every employee is a potential brand ambassador for your business. What they say and do will reflect on you whether you like it or not!
So social media guidelines should provide them with the tools they need to engage positively, respectfully, and inclusively.
With social media guidelines, you can:
- Encourage your employees to follow your official accounts - this helps to spread your message to others not following you directly.
- Share your company’s social media strategy - so everyone working for you knows where/what you are doing, there are no grey areas then and everyone knows what they can and can't do.
- Empower your employees to engage positively - lets them take ownership of the businesses messaging and promotion.
- Educate everyone on social media best practices - always good... Seriously though - it is for EVERYONE! From your management team to your cleaners! Not just your sales staff.
- Introduce employees to approved third-party tools and resources, training and more - who doesn't like being upskilled? And if you can - go through them together so there is no misunderstanding.
- Protect your employees from social harassment - having the tools and resources at their finger tips to protect them is a BIG plus in your favour when something goes wrong.
- Safeguard your company from cybersecurity risks - another plus as knowledge is power, the more your staff has it - the safer you are.
- Boost your brand’s reputation on social media - who doesn't want this.
While social media guidelines are typically created for employees, they can also be shared with any influencers, corporate partners, creative agencies, and others who can benefit from them who come in contact with your business to keep your messages 'on brand'.
What to include in your social media guidelines
There are some staple basics or ingredients that should be in all social media guidelines.
But every company is different. So be sure you tailor yours to fit your specific industry and employee needs.
It is highly recommended, before getting started, to reach out to employees and see if there are any common questions or misconceptions that you can address. This also lets you know at what level your employees are already using social media at - you may discover an employee who is a 'power user' on one platform you didn't know you had. They may be able to help lift your brand profile on that platform, and also offer advice.
Here’s a rundown of core sections you should include in your social media guidelines:
Share the links to all of your company’s social media channels, and encourage employees to follow them.
This is a great opportunity to show employees how your brand presents itself on social media.
If specific hashtags are a core part of your social media strategy (be it normal every day use, or, promotion specific), be sure to share them, too, they aren't a secret!
Some large companies allow or sometimes require representatives to run personal social accounts on behalf of the brand.
If that’s the case, share how someone can (or cannot) obtain authorization to do the same.
Disclosure and transparency
It’s required by law in some countries of the world that someone identifies themselves as an employee when they discuss company-related matters on social media. Just having it in your bio is not enough. This disclosure should be done anyway to just make it clear to anyone reading any post that they are involved with you in one way or another.
On the other hand, there are cases when someone has identified themselves as an employee in their social bio, but plans to express their own opinions, politics, etc. In these cases, you may wish to ask that employees add a disclosure statement that states “All opinions expressed are my own.” Or something to that effect.
Either way, you are then covered should anything unforeseen happen.
Here’s everything you need to know to stay compliant on social media.
Remind the people who work for you to avoid sharing confidential or proprietary information.
This includes private information about co-workers (especially their names if they don't want to share them - there may be very good reasons they don't want to do so), private communications, financial disclosures, research and development news, upcoming products, or any other sensitive information.
It’s important for every employer and brand to promote inclusivity on and off social media.
Showing your employees that you care about inclusivity on social media shows them that you care about them, too.
Some basic inclusivity guidelines may include:
- Use inclusive pronouns (they/them/theirs/folks)
- Don’t make assumptions about gender, race, experience, or ability
- Avoid gender or race-specific emojis
- Feel free to share your preferred pronouns
- Use title case for hashtags—it makes them more legible for screen readers
- Provide descriptive captions for images
- Be thoughtful about representation
Remind employees to respect intellectual property, copyright, trademarks, and other relevant laws.
A good rule of thumb is: If it’s not yours, and you don’t have permission, don’t post it.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts you may want to include:
- DO list the company as your employer in your social media bio (if you wish to)
- DON’T engage with competitors in an inappropriate way
- DO share company posts, events, and stories
- DON’T engage with negative coverage or comments
- DO express your own opinion. Just make sure it’s clear that it is yours, and you’re not speaking on behalf of the company
- DON’T comment on legal matters pertaining to the company - EVER!
- DO report harassment you’ve experienced or noticed
As an alternative or add-on, consider including a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section—especially if you are frequently fielding certain queries.
If you haven’t received questions from your employees, ask for them.
AND of course your contact info - always important and often missed!
You MUST include it on any social media account as part of your business bio - I have seen so many social media accounts that people have forgotten to include this on - so make sure you don't forget it!
While this is just a basic guide in itself - check with your industry body to see if there is anything we may have missed.
Until next time - stay safe!