Social Media Policy, Politics, and Personal Expression
It’s social media policy review season again…still? The confluence of Halloween, the Midterm Elections, the Kavanaugh confirmation process, reaction to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting has increased questions from clients, colleagues, partners and the influencers in our network about how to review their own social media policy for relevance and effectiveness.
What’s too strict? What’s too permissive? What about the 1st Amendment? Why does it matter what our employees do on their social media accounts? Why can’t I say what I want the way I want to say it? Questions from all perspectives, which, by definition, means it’s the best time for a good social media policy well communicated and reinforced.
The Best Social Media Policy Is NOT a List of Rules and Regulations.
A good social media policy does three things:
- Provides guidelines and roles and responsibilities for employees who want to spread the good word about your brand among their social networks to help build and sustain the company’s business.
- Provides guidelines for employees to enhance their career opportunities through social media while they also exercise their First Amendment rights.
- Keeps the company and its employees apprised of the changing terms of service on the different social media platforms.
These three intentions are symbiotic and, when held equally in a social media policy, can have an incredibly positive impact for the brand as a whole – the products, the people who make those products, and the business around them possible.
The Best Social Media Policy Explains Why The Rules Exist AND Give Great Examples of What TO Do
At Double Forte we like to break down post content by intention – Inspire, Educate, Inform, Entertain, Connect, Reward, etc. As such we like policies that work the same way with a good dose of common sense. To that end:
5 Things Every Social Media Policy Should Have
First: Share Some Common Sense. No company policy can take the place of common sense and good judgment! And that is extra true for a social media policy.
- Consider whether your post could have a negative impact on yourself, your company, your colleagues, your neighbors. If yes, consider rewriting it or not posting at all
- If you wouldn’t tell your mother or your manager, well then don’t post it. Why? They will find out.
- The Internet is forever.
- Respect privacy, confidential information and copyrights. Don’t be posting things that don’t belong to you, that are private company information – sometimes that includes who you’re meeting with – or other people’s work without attribution.
- And if you’re upset about something, wait until your blood pressure has gone down before you post – 999 times out of 1,000 you’ll post something very different.
Second: Identify Who Posts on Behalf of Your Company. While every employee is an ambassador for your brand, everyone should not be posting on behalf of your company, so your social media policy should articulate precisely who does what. Also, identify what laws the organization is bound by. If you are in a nonprofit you may be restricted from partisan political posts, but many options exist to share your point of view without violating these more restrictive rules!
Third: Help Your Employees Project Themselves Well on Social Media. Even the most digitally native employees don’t always know the differences between the social platforms and what the best practices for each are. Share it with them.
Include encouragements to:
- Use good photos (not fuzzy, not low res that will pixelate) that are theirs, not someone else’s that they copy, thereby potentially infringing on someone else’s copyright.
- Use good grammar and spelling. You could encourage your team to use the Grammarly plug-in which will identify spelling errors online.
- Don’t be a pushy, salesperson in social media. Opt for friendly and helpful over high pressure and demanding.
Also, a good social media policy should include best practices so that your employees can achieve social success with their posts.
- On Pinterest, use a portrait image instead of a landscape one for best presentation.
- On Twitter, posts with images get more than 2 times the engagement than posts without an image; limit hashtags to no more than three.
- On Instagram, use lots of hashtags but “hide them” by dropping them down on your post by using returns.
And include best community member practices such as:
- Be transparent about who you are and where you work
- When you post an opinion on policies or political candidates you may need to say “these are my opinions and may or may not reflect the opinions of my employer”
- If you’re wrong in your post, correct it as soon as humanly possible
- Don’t engage with trolls and other people or bots who try to escalate an online discussion.
Fourth: Show employees how they can spread the love for their company without going outside the lines. Pepper your social media policy with examples of how to amplify your brand messages if they want. Encourage your team to do so!
Fifth: Make sure employees know that what they do online has implications for their employment. You will need a statement that explains who the policy applies to (employees only? Officers only? Contractors too?). You should also include the following phrase or something close to it so that there are no ambiguities about implications: “Failure to comply with this social media policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.” Sounds harsh, but there it is.
We recommend that you review your social media policy every six months or so that you can reflect any changes in the law, the platforms or your strategy. And then even without any changes, remind people on a quarterly basis about the policy and guidelines. No one remembers everything all the time.
If you need a place to start, no point in reinventing the wheel! Here’s a good place to see what some high profile companies have put in place.