Your guide to social media policy – Part II

How to write one.

It’s natural as humans to be compelled to create and innovate. It’s a part of our competitive and animalistic endeavour to claim a piece for ourselves of scarce resources. Technological advancement prehistorically meant our ancestors using a handcrafted rock to cut a fresh kill; and today means increased digital capability and how that lends to developments in so many other more tangible things like hardware, tools and equipment, building techniques and approaches to business.

And of course, the evolution of social media for communication by the masses – a digital megaphone at the hands and whim of every individual with internet access (at least everyone in westernised societies).

Add to that the invention of mobile devices with access to internet and you have a hurricane of rapid human communication, idea sharing, information exchange, intellectual advancement – but not without collectively wading through many mistakes, in-hindsight learnings, social faux pas and recently, workplace related court cases. It’s only human. Naturally.

Last month, I shared some ground breaking case studies of how this evolved style of communication via social media channels can be wielded and abused by the misguided hand of your staff, resulting in sacking and/or employer fines via court proceedings publicised by mainstream media.

I mentioned the need for clearly defined parameters for what constitutes work and what is considered personal use of social media. The need for a policy has been widely acknowledged and accepted. It’s your mandate as an employer to protect your staff and reputation; and yours as an employee to respect and deliver. Clear articulation of a policy into actual behaviours staff can easily demonstrate when using social media is the common challenge I see with my clients. So I would like to expand on that here for you today.

Consider what your basic personified values are as an organisation (do you even know)? The key is to then define what behaviours are associated with those values and to then communicate that to all staff.

Social media is about people and the behaviour of people, not the technology itself. It’s just a website address after all. Business must be conducted with this base-line belief and contingencies put in place to communicate and market effectively online and off. How do you want to behave as an organisation? An example of this approach done well is the publicly available Telstra social media policy, the 3 R’s of Social Media whose outline of 3 simple (and easy to remember) values, which are representation, responsibility, respect each has its own set of real-world behaviours to be demonstrated by staff and in what scenarios they need to be applied.

As an ex-Telstra employee myself, I can say well done to them for getting that up and running so early in the game too and it’s something that I have always referred to in my experience as a social media professional beyond the Telstra era of my career.

Don’t forget to also specify what constitutes a breach of policy and the penalties associated with these. I don’t know about you, but rules are often meaningless unless you know how big the smackdown will be if you do break them… It is at this point that I must advocate for having a legal counsel – seek it!

Finally, to quell that niggling urge some employers may have to prohibit or block social media use in the work place as a cover-all-bases attempt at mitigating risk (particularly those experiencing staff bullying or staff inadvertently harming public relations or customer relationships). Hear this – by silencing your staff, you are silencing your first brand advocates and limiting your opportunity for long term customer and human resource acquisition and retention potential! So be mindful to avoid sticking gaffer tape over mouths.

Like this? Read more on social media policy in our series:

Your guide to social media policy – Part I (Why have one)

Your guide to social media policy – Part III (How to implement your policy)