4 min read
Protect your reputation with social media ground rules.
The First Amendment grants you freedom of speech, but it doesn’t protect obscenity, defamation, or fighting words. When employees represent your business on social media, they should know their speech is limited by rules. You don’t want one person’s bad posting habits to damage your reputation or lead to defamation lawsuits.
Follow these 8 steps for setting up a business social media policy.
Setting Up Your Business Social Media Policy
1. Get to the Point
Social media is supposed to be fun and insightful, even when it’s used for business purposes. Don’t create a bloated social media policy with detailed rules and exceptions. If you do this, the red tape and high word count could dissuade your employees from creating positive posts about your business.
Adidas is a massive company, and their social media policy is two pages long. Take their cue and keep it short and sweet.
2. Reference the Terms of Service
Every social media platform has terms of service, or rules that dictate what users can and can’t do. You want to stay in the good graces of these social media platforms, so let employees know that they must follow the terms of service.
Below, you’ll find terms of service for:
Because you’re dealing with digital media, you might want to link to terms of service within your social media policy.
3. Ban the Posting of Confidential Information
Cornell Law School has a very detailed definition of confidential business information. If you don’t want to read the entire thing, the simplest way to put it is that company secrets don’t belong on social media. Confidential business information includes:
- Any trade secret
- Customer information
- So much that you couldn’t put all of it in your social media policy
We discuss disciplinary measures below, but posting confidential business information without permission should count as a serious offense.
4. Make Full Disclosure Mandatory
You can never have enough testimonials. No form of marketing beats the power of kind words from customers and employees. You’re on the right track when employees create posts saying, “I love working at [the name of your business goes here].” It’s great when they’re excited about the products and services you offer, too.
However, your social media policy should require employees to disclose that they work for your business whenever they’re posting about it. Here’s a sample post to give you a better idea of what we’re talking about:
“Nothing beats Jalapeno Jerry’s spicy pickle chips. The saltiness 🥨 The sweetness 🍭 It’s an incredible taste sensation that’s totally en fuego 🔥”
If you notice this post on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you won’t see that it was created by someone who works at Jalapeno Jerry’s unless you drill down into profile details. Though this post might’ve been created with the best intentions, the lack of full disclosure comes across as deceptive. Here’s an updated post that works within full disclosure rules:
“I’m a proud employee of Jalapeno Jerry’s. There’s no treat that can beat our spicy pickle chips. The saltiness 🥨 The sweetness 🍭 It’s an incredible taste sensation that’s totally en fuego 🔥”
If you want to get creative, encourage employees to use hashtags like #proudjjemployee and #iworkatjalapenojerrys.
5. Take a Stand on Drama
You probably know what we mean when we use the word “drama” in reference to business:
- Gossiping (which could include confidential business information)
You get the drift. We’ve all had bad days at work, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to hop on social media and rant about our bosses and coworkers. It reflects poorly on your business, and if there are problems, you should encourage your employees to talk to you before they publicly air their grievances.
6. Ban Cyberbullying
Dictionary.com defines cyberbullying as: “The act of harassing someone online by sending or posting mean messages, usually anonymously.” A cyberbullying rule works hand-in-hand with step 5. Unfortunately, employees at your business could use social media to gossip about coworkers or even harass them.
Whether you use bold red text or a large font, make your ban on cyberbullying a serious offense that could lead to termination.
7. Define Consequences
Disciplinary action will vary depending on the severity of the social media offense. A good rule of thumb is to take the classic escalation approach of:
- A verbal warning for a first offense.
- A written warning for a second offense.
- Suspension or termination for a third offense.
If you have an employee who repeats the same social media mistakes, they probably don’t value your business reputation. This presents a real threat to your livelihood because customers speak with their wallets when brands make social media blunders. Don’t put yourself in that boat. Use clearly defined consequences to eliminate problems before they become problems.
8. Establish Contacts Within the Company
Employees will have questions about these social media rules, so include a list of contacts with phone numbers and email addresses in your policy. Instead of offering a PDF social media policy, turn it into an internal website. If the contact information changes, you can instantly update it.
Social media gives you exposure to a wider audience, but it creates risk and liability when there are no rules.
While you’re protecting your reputation online, contact your local Pekin Insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage in place for your business insurance plans.