Still thinking about your last company policy on dress code or expenses? Get ready for a change of perspective when it comes to a social media policy for employees! With the blurring of the line between professional and personal use, social networking doesn’t fit neatly into one box like other issues.
Conventional approaches of “do this” or “don’t do that” may be out of place. The sizable potential of social media to create benefits or wreak havoc for a manufacturer or distributor means having a policy is critical. Details will differ according to distributors, but the following points will help you get started.
Start with the Big Picture
The first question to be asked is “what do we want to say (or to be said) about our company?” The answer will be guided by your company mission statement. If you don’t have a mission statement, now is an excellent time to create one. This in turn will help lay out guidelines for social media usage, roles and responsibilities.
Policy definition can also benefit from the participation of employees to make it workable and relevant. If you decide, as some enterprises do, to define two social media policies – one on professional use, the other for personal use – then getting employee input makes even more sense.
Only the Info You’d Be Happy to See Replicated
To be safe, the only level of information appropriate to post on public social media is information already destined for public consumption. Examples are public webpage content, sales and marketing brochures, and press releases. Counter-examples are information in categories such as Internal Use Only, Confidential or Secret.
This means exercising care when using social media in business communications with resellers, for instance. As a general principle, avoid putting information on your publicly accessible pages, blogs or microblogs that you would not want to see echoing until the end of time in cyber space.
Be Cautious When Seeking to Impose Rules
On their own social networks, employees may be within their rights to discuss job conditions with their colleagues. The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to organize, whether the communications medium is online or offline. Legal advice from a professional with experience specifically in social media is recommended.
This should alert you to any obligations on your company concerning your employees or on your employees themselves (observing copyright of third-party content, for instance) when using social media in relation to company matters.
See What Other Companies are Doing
Another enterprise’s social media policy for employees can help generate ideas and avoid omissions. It is unlikely that another company’s approach will exactly fit what you need, but look at how specific or flexible they are about what to do or not to do, and whether their tone is formal or friendly.
See how they handle things like asking employees to use disclaimers if they post their opinions on their own social networks. Ask your social media team for their opinions on such policies too. You may well learn about what not to do for your distributor’s social media policy, as well as identifying best practices it would make sense to adopt.
How has your distribution activity shaped your specific social media policy for employees? Tell us about your approach in the Comments box below.
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