17 Social Media Guidelines Every Company Needs

Actionable Marketing 101

Do you think your firm doesn’t need social media guidelines? Think again! Even if your firm doesn’t use social media marketing, it needs social media guidelines. The reality is that your employees are active on a variety of social media platforms and may be representing your firm without you even knowing it. Therefore, any company with more than one employee should have a set of social media guidelines to protect both the employees and the organization.

Social media guidelines fall into three major categories. They are employees as company representatives, sites you host with employee, customer and public interactions, and employee non-work interactions. Here are fifteen points with questions that will help you define what’s appropriate for your company when creating your firm’s social media guidelines.

Employees may represent your company as advocates, product support providers or industry experts. How should employees behave as company representatives on social media platforms?

  1. Transparency. Should employees acting as company agents identify themselves? Should they use their own names? Should they list their job title? Should there be specific rules that apply their use of photographs or avatars?
  2. Confidentiality. What information are employees allowed to disclose? Is this information already public? If not, does it require specific approvals? Who gives permission for release of non-public information? Is the information of competitive value?
  3. Financials. How should employees discuss corporate results or financial situation? This is particularly important for publically traded companies where regulatory agencies are involved.
  4. Copyright. How are intellectual property (aka IP) issues to be handled? What are the internal procedures? To whom should employees address their questions?
  5. Competitors. Since social media forums tend to be open to the public, how should employees treat competitors and their representatives? Are there specific procedures that they should follow?
  6. Advice. What type of information and guidance can employees distribute to customers and the public? Depending on the type of organization, this can have important consequences.
  7. Boundaries. What’s acceptable to communicate? Remember that by its nature, social media is public.
  8. Manners. What protocols are considered acceptable behavior? Employees must be respectful of everyone, regardless of their point of view. Should employees be allowed to post anything that favors one group over another?
  9. Ownership. Who owns the social media content that’s created by employees on company time? If the company keeps the copyright to the content, how should this content be deployed and defended?

How should employees treat social media content created by customers and the public on company websites, including blogs, discussion and comment areas and other owned social media entities? The goal here is to provide direction for staff dealing with content contributed by non-company personnel.

  1. Civility. Is all contributed content civil without four letter words or personal attacks? This includes off color remarks and unacceptable images.
  2. On-topic. Are the content and comments on topic and relevant to the conversation? Does the comment add to the value of the community or is it just a rant?
  3. Discriminatory. Are the comments prejudicial to a single person or category of people?

How should employees act on social media platforms when on their own time? These suggestions apply to how employees engage on social media platforms when they are away from the office.

  1. Representation. How should employees identify themselves when they’re engaged in social media for their personal use? Do you want employees to reveal their employer and job title?
  2. Co-workers. Can they discuss their boss and work? How should employees discuss and interact with former employees? Remember that comments live on forever the Internet. Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.
  3. Respectful. How do you want employees to demonstrate their consideration for others in these forums?

Additionally, here are two other factors that apply across categories.

  1. Social media on business hours. Are employees allowed to access social media platforms during their working hours? Is it part of their job requirements? If not, are there any guidelines they need to follow?
  2. Consequences. What happens if someone breaks these rules? How does this affect their employee record? Who is responsible for enforcing these guidelines?

Based on these seventeen points, develop your own set of guidelines that work for your business and offering. It can be helpful to get input from your employees before you finalize them.

If you have any suggestions for creating social media guidelines, please add them to the comments section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: foxypar4 via Flickr

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