Social media codes of conduct and policies can protect your business from the dangers of damaging online behavior if they exist and communicated to your staff and employees. The importance of these guidelines continues to rise because the frequency of social media mistakes and wrongdoings has increased.
And since a large amount of adult time is spent at work, the risk of offensive or objectional behavior on social media occurring while on the job is high, whether on a company computer or device or employees’ personal laptop, phone and device.
Whether you like it or not, your staff is using social media.
Here are three benefits a social media policy or code of conduct provides your business or brand.
1. Protection from legal trouble, security risks, intellectual property exposure, and brand damage.
If you don’t have a policy in place for both professional and personal use of social media by your employees and staff, they, quite literally, don’t know what’s off limits.
It might seem acceptable to post pictures of this month’s birthday and work anniversary celebrations, but if those pictures expose confidential or security-related images, there could be a risk. While many companies do have confidentiality agreements or clauses in their employment contracts or policies, does it specifically cover social media.
Social media posting about your customers and projects could be an excellent marketing tactic. But, if the posts are negative or reveal an issue, they create a damaging impact.
Your social media code of conduct should include clear explanations about the information that should and should not be shared. Examples of information that might be included in the policy include items like confidential product or project details, sensitive client information, and personal information about staff and clients.
2. Protection from conflicts arising from personal use of social media.
There needs to be a clear separation of personal use and company use of social media. If your staff routinely connects and comments online, it could be very easy for a social media content consumer to think employee views and opinions and the organization’s are the same. Post or content attribution confusion can create risk for the organization.
As statistics indicate, employees will be using social media during work hours, so a personal post from your place of business could easily confuse the reader.
Your code of conduct should identify the role of personal and organizational social media interaction. The policy should clearly define how and when staff members need to attribute their postings as their own as opposed to the organizations.
The policy should identify by name which employees are allowed to speak on the company’s behalf on social media platforms. The policy should provide actions for real-life scenarios, for example, when an employee is contacted via Facebook Messenger with a question or concern about the company. Should they respond or forward it to a specific company representative? The policy should also provide examples of how employees can positively engage with the organization’s social media posts.
3. Protection from inappropriate online behavior.
Your policies should outline the types of postings that are inappropriate. There are five major posting categories that most Social Media Codes of Conduct typically include; sexual activity, derogatory or discriminatory language or imagery, violence, Illegal activity including those related to drug and alcohol, and posting related to proprietary or institutional information.
The code of conduct should clearly define what is acceptable and unacceptable to post.
There are numerous examples of employment disciplinary action and termination related to social media. Here are a few listed by category:
• Violence: Truck driver fired over threatening Facebook post
• Discrimination / Racism: PR executive fired for a racist Twitter post
• Sexual content: Writer fired for Tweet with a sexual comment about a child
Remove the chance of inappropriate behavior with clearly defined expectations and situational awareness.
The policy should also indicate how social media activity will be monitored and actions to be taken if the policy is not followed.
There are many benefits of having a social media code of conduct or policy. But having a policy is only the first step. It is essential to understand that businesses need to educate their employees on how to use social media in the business environment, both professionally and personally.
Realizing there is an inherent risk and taking real steps to mitigate those risks is something most businesses haven’t accomplished yet.
Need help developing, evaluating and updating a Social Media Code of Conduct? Schedule a consultation with the Social Media 23 team.