Is social media a wonderful invention or our own worst enemy? It allows us to share ideas with people from around the world, amplify ideas, and even communicate with celebrities. Unfortunately for far too many people, social media can be our undoing . The great part of social media is you can react “off the cuff” and express an opinion. But far too often that improvisation is inappropriate.
HR professionals are tasked with protecting an organization’s greatest assets – its people. This means that not only do we protect individuals but also the organization as a whole. That’s where a strong employee handbook with a social media policy come in to play.
What to Include in Your Social Media Policy
An HR social media policy should include the following and we highly recommend the policy is in the employee handbook.
Adult Education – Don’t assume you’re writing the policy for savvy social media users. Take the chance to explain social media platforms. Then outline the corporate policy for separating personal from professional thoughts, opinions, and lives.
Disclaimers – If you yourself are a Twitter user you may sometimes see company branding, mentions, or employee info in a bio. Most likely you also see “opinions are my own” in the bio of the Tweeter – this is a must for any Twitter handle that mentions or alludes to a brand – separate oneself from the brand OR your employees’ opinions. No one needs to lose business because employee number 37 hates a politician or position.
Information Guidelines – It may seem obvious, but your social media policy should clearly state that unless an individual is an authorized spokesperson for your organization or simply re-posting company information without comment, no employee should discuss corporate matters on social media.
Professionalism – Even when there is no mention that an individual works for a company on the social media platform, people know where individuals work. Your social media platform should set expectations for reasonable decorum.
What you should do when a social media policy is violated
I was in HR before social media, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of experiences with violated social media policies. Perhaps the most related and poignant story comes from when a previous employer was conducting layoffs. After an employee was laid off they took to Facebook to share about the layoffs. The company was named, violating our social media policies and putting her severance at jeopardy. We communicated our request to remove the post or she would lose her severance. It was an uncomfortable situation, but one that was easier to handle because we had communicated the terms of our policy and the severance agreement clearly. When it was violated, we had a quick and defined course of action.