How to Create a Social Media Policy that Empowers Employee Advocacy

February 16, 2017

Guardrails on a Steep Road

Imagine being at the top of a steep, winding mountain road. You’re pretty sure you can get to the bottom safely…but if you’re wrong it’s a steep drop and a sudden stop. You might take it way too slow, or you might decide not to make the trip.

For many people, the thought of representing their company on social media causes that same level of anxiety and caution. They know it’s a good way to build a personal brand and boost the business. But at the same time, they’ve seen what can happen when social media goes wrong. Some decide to be overly cautious. Some decide not to participate at all.

If you want your employees to represent the brand enthusiastically but professionally, give them guardrails to guide them. A good social media policy instills confidence and helps to avoid messy mistakes.

Use this guide to learn how to create a social media policy, then download the template to get started.

1. Establish Who the Policy Is For and What It Covers

The policy may cover only certain job roles, or may be more restrictive for those who deal with more sensitive information. It may cover only official corporate accounts, employees’ personal accounts, or both. It’s important to be absolutely clear who and what is affected by the policy.

2. Explain Any Legal Requirements

Make sure any applicable laws, rules and regulations are summarized in your policy, as they will help explain the legal requirements to your employees.

It’s a good idea to encourage employees to disclose that they work for your company, and to disclose the relationship when promoting any of your company’s clients. Finally, employees should never represent themselves as officially speaking for the company, and should make it clear their opinions are their own.

3. Reinforce the Company Culture

Your company’s brand guidelines and culture should be a driving force of brand-related social media interactions. So it makes sense to sum up what your company is about and what values you want to project. Let employees know that they are responsible for upholding these values in all their social media communication.

In general, it’s good to promote transparency, honesty and respect. That means being truthful about the brand and its competitors, never trashing other companies or hyperbolically promoting your brand. And it means being respectful of individuals, too.

4. Set Expectations of Privacy and Appropriate Behavior

This section is for reminding employees that public posts on social media are reflective of the individual and the brand by proxy. For example, if an employee posts profanity-laden rants or political memes, that could have a negative effect on the business.

Give a brief explanation of how major social media platforms’ privacy features work, and how to restrict personal posts to friends only. Encourage mindfulness in choosing who to follow and accept as follower, and encourage employees to separate personal and professional profiles.

You can address specific platforms in this section, but make sure to update it regularly if you choose to do so. Your employees probably don’t need advice on their MySpace and Friendster accounts.

5. Address Crisis Management

There are two types of crisis to cover in this section. The first is a national, local or industry-specific news event, like a tragedy your employees might feel compelled to comment on. This section should make it clear who is responsible for speaking on behalf of the brand in such a crisis and what response is appropriate (i.e., when to stay silent, how to express condolences, what kinds of information to pass on).

The second type of crisis is more personal: Your policy should cover how employees interact with someone hostile to the brand. Make it clear that arguments are never appropriate; that customer service issues should be passed to the right department and outright trolling should be ignored.

6. Encourage the Right Kind of Sharing

Much of your guide will be concerned with restrictions—what not to share, what rules to follow, etc. So make sure to call out the type of messaging employees are encouraged to share. Let them know how valuable their voice is to the business and your customers.  

Tell them to share their unique perspective and insight, to find the brand-boosting stories only they can tell. Encourage them to promote their co-workers as well, sharing congratulations on each other’s achievements and fostering community.

Crafting a good social media policy can be tricky, since it has to include legal considerations, brand guidelines, and your employees’ needs. Keep in mind the goal is not to restrict their sharing to a handful of approved corporate messages. Rather, your guardrails should give them the freedom and encouragement to hit the road for your company. When your employees advocate for your company responsibly, they bring humanity to your brand and help further their professional development at the same time.

Download the Social Media Policy Template to get started creating your own policy.

Now that you have a great social media policy, you can start to build a sustainable employee advocacy program. You can provide the framework for your employees to share content that raises your brand awareness, helps bring in customers, and enhances your recruitment efforts.  

Read the Official Guide to Employee Advocacy to see how your social media policy can be the foundation of a valuable advocacy program.

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