10 Guidelines to Include in your Social Media Policy

Creating a social media policy can be confusing. For one thing, it’s not one-size-fits-all. A policy can take many different shapes based on your goals and the group who will be using it. Some policies are highly tactical, some are full of legalese and some are nothing more than common-sense guidelines.

But, whatever form it takes, a social policy is important: It sets expectations for behavior, helps prevent a PR crisis, and can give you legal recourse against employee actions.

Before you dive in, think first about your purposes: What are trying to create? To get you started, let’s walk through three common types of policies you might explore.

A policy template for every need

HR social media policy: Marketing may have a hand in its creation, but this type of policy is often managed by HR to ensure employees know how they should use social media on company time. A 2012 Altimeter Report shows that 56% of companies have an employee policy on social media.

Policy on corporate use of social media: Some companies have many corporate users of social who update regularly on the company’s behalf. This requires a more robust policy – and should be paired with training – than what you might create for the average employee.

Social policy for customers: This is policy that gives your online community expectations for behavior. For example, Cleveland Clinic’s policy warns against posting personal health information on CC sites. Only 38% of companies have a policy for customers.

A Real-Life Example: Creating an Agent Social Media Policy Template

Do you have a number of employees who update for the company? It’s likely you need the second type we mentioned – a policy for corporate use.

This was the case for American Family Insurance. Collin Kromke, one of the company’s social media administrators, recently joined us on a webinar to talk about their agent social media program. The thousands of American Family agents who update on behalf of the brand were initially bound to an HR social policy, but Collin soon realized the need for a separate policy.

“Employee policies focus on things like appropriate use during business hours. With our agents, that doesn’t really apply, “ said Collin. “These people are independent business owners. What they do with their time is up to them. With agents, every post or comment is subject to compliance and archiving requirements. We needed a policy just for them.”

So, Collin crafted a policy that contains everything from the usual reminders to follow copyright guidelines to unique stipulations that give American Family the right to shut down dormant agent pages that may be a poor reflection on the agent and company.

The results? Collin says the agents appreciate the social policy and its guidelines. You can see some of the specific guidelines from his policy below.

10 Things to Include in Your Social Policy

OK, here’s what you clicked here for: 10 guidelines that we recommend you (and all companies) should include in a social media policy.

1) Prohibit the sharing of confidential information.
Set boundaries for what company information can be shared online. Remind (or even link) users to the confidentiality agreements they’ve signed.

2) Encourage employees to identify themselves as representatives of the company. American Family encourages people to do this in both their employee and agent social media policies. “We ask agents to be transparent anytime they’re talking about the company or products, so people are clear you’re speaking from that role,” says Collin.

3) Update people on copyright laws.
With the abundance of free online media, such as Google images, it’s important to remind people there are rules about how they use it.

4) Avoid engaging in arguments or debates.
When employees get in flame wars, it can cast your company in a negative light. Remind people to be respectful by including a guideline similar to American Family’s:  “Do not engage in arguments or post inflammatory comments or statements in response to any negative or derogatory comments about American Family, its employees, agents or products.”

5) Set boundaries to protect customers.
This is important if your employees deal with customers regularly.Identify exactly howemployees are allowed to talk about customer interactions online – for example, can they post customer receipts? 

6) Refer back to your company’s code of conduct and ethics policy.
Chances are you have other documentation about employee behavior. The same rules stand on social.  Make the connection back to these documents.

7) Remind about proper social etiquette.
You may want to remind employees who post on behalf of the company tomind their social P’s & Q’s. American Family encourages agents to avoid “over-selling” by stating,“Do not make more than one explicit request for a client or prospect to connect with you or your agency on a social media site in a 90-day period.”

8) Don’t forget the permanence of the Internet.
As the quote goes, “The Internet’s not written in pencil, it’s written in ink.”

9) Instruct employees on when they can use the company name within their social usernames (if at all.)
Provide clear rules and an internal contact to speak to on how and when they can set up a corporate-sanctioned account.

10) Offer assistance and training.
Instruct people where they can learn more about social media and the policy. Even better, hold regular company trainings like Dell.

For more tips and resources on creating your social media policy, watch our webinar featuring American Family Insurance.