November 11, 2015 Raz Chorev

What’s involved in crafting a Social Media Policy?

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Originally published on T2Consult Blog

A survey undertaken by Deloitte Touche LLP in the USA in April 2009 showed that:

  • 74% of surveyed employees say it’s EASY to damage a company’s reputation on social media
  • However only 22% of companies surveyed have formal social media policies
  • 61% of employees said that, even if their employers were monitoring their social networking sites, they wouldn’t change what they were doing online
  • 49% said a company policy wouldn’t change how they behave online.

This is an old (in internet terms) survey, and we now know that those numbers are likely to have changed, but regardless of the numbers- what does it mean to us? It means that there are risks associated with Social Media use, which most employees are aware of.

We also know that increasing number of companies is aware of those risks and opportunities of Social Media participation (or lack of).

Perhaps the most alarming truth represented in this survey, is the fact that many employees wouldn’t change their online behaviour just because of a company policy.

Saying that, if a company isn’t providing guidelines and policies to their employees, there is little recourse in case of brand, reputation or other damages. Therefore, we need to provide guidance to our team, helping them understand the correlation between their online activities and it’s long-term effect on them personally, and the company they are associated with.

A social media policy is a dynamic document, which needs to evolve over time. This policy document has a lot in common with other HR related policies, however there are some subtleties to look out for. The policy should contain the following elements:

  • Reinforcement of company values
  • Reassurance of trust
  • Basic behavioural guidelines
  • Consequences and discipline
  • Escalation process

Company Values

Every company culture is different, and the company’s core values will have different focus. It’s very important to reinforce those Core Values in the policy, to make sure those values are coming across in the employee’s online behaviour, as well as their offline behavior.

Trust

Social media behaviour is difficult to monitor, especially in large organizations. Therefore the organization need to demonstrate trust in their team members – trust that they’ll know the difference between right and wrong, and apply judgment when they interact online.

Guidelines

Those guidelines should be very broad and loose. Being too restrictive will encourage rebellion, or even worse – apathy. On the other hand, having some red lines will help make sure employees are kept respectful and accountable for their actions.

Most policies include a hardline around:

  •  Bullying
  •  Sexual harassment
  •  Intellectual property protection
  •  Regulatory constraints (in the legal & finance industries in particular).

Those Do-Not-Cross lines will serve the company as recourse, when a disciplinary action is required.

Consequences and discipline

Sometimes those redlines are crossed, deliberately or not. When it comes to management’s attention, it’s vital for the offender to understand the consequences of her actions.  Some actions will be mild and require a warning, but others may require immediate termination of employment. Enforcing the policy will send a firm message to other team members, to be more careful with their online and social behaviour.

Escalation process

Social media in the organization doesn’t only apply internally. Other stakeholders of the organization are using social media too, such as contractors, suppliers, clients etc.

There might be a need to craft a separate policy which should cover engagement with external stakeholders. For example, in a customer support centre environment, there should be clear guidelines on how to respond to offensive or abusive language, crises situations, and provide a clear escalation process in such events.

A few years ago, Apple’s Social Media Policy document was leaked, and circulated the internet. There’s a lot to learn from the attitude and approach, which led to this policy document to be drafted the way it did. It’s just ironic that the Social Media Policy document was leaked on social channels.

 

Originally published on T2Consult Blog

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