With new social media platforms cropping up all the time, workplace social media rules must go beyond simply discouraging employees from putting off deadlines to play with Snapchat filters. In fact, your corporate social media policy could probably use some updating right now, and on at least an annual basis moving forward to reflect industry changes. That is—if you even have one! Only 51 percent of people said their employers have social media guidelines, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
No matter the size of your company, ask yourself this: When was the last time you reviewed your company’s social media policy? And if you don’t have a policy in place, what’s holding you back?
Developing a social media policy and keeping it up to date will ensure that your employees are aware of what they can and cannot do, help your company avoid violating any rules, and ultimately, serve to cover the company’s you-know-what.
Here’s a closer look at why you’ll want to make an up-to-date social media policy a priority so you:
Avoid legal scandals. All you have to do is recall Chipotle’s gaffe from 2015, in which it lost a lawsuit for firing an employee who posted negative items on social media. However, the court found Chipotle’s social media policy actually violated federal labor laws. Ouch!
Your takeaway: Work with your legal team to update your policy, so it jives with legal changes coming out of the Federal Trade Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. Your old policy needs to reflect the current legal standards. For instance, the FTC has clear guidelines regarding disclosures and endorsements, so check that out to see how it affects your social media marketing.
Protect company secrets. As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains, a social media policy may actually help safeguard sensitive data from potential hackers and online scams, especially in a BYOD environment. Employees should also know what proprietary information about the company must never be shared—another aspect that needs to be regularly updated as the business grows.
Your takeaway: Protect your company’s information by identifying what is considered confidential, such as marketing tactics, non-public financials, future product launches, and other “for internal use only” communications. Check out GM’s Social Media Policy to see how they spell it out for their workers.
Make it clear what type of social media activity is and isn’t allowed. While it might be obvious that posting illicit, offensive, or insensitive material on a company-branded social media page is a no-no, it still happens. For the people running social for your company, what checks and balances are in place to avoid a public relations disaster? Are the rules different for each platform? Beyond that, though, there is a lot of gray area regarding if and how employees will be held accountable for what they post on their personal pages—and who will monitor that.
Your takeaway: As I’ve written before, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and be as specific as possible in your social media document. And if you needed another reason why it’s so important to continually update and periodically review your policy as new platforms come into play, this is it.
Ideally, effective social media policies should be fluid and responsive to the fast-paced digital world. But at the very least, taking the time to perform a yearly review can save your employees a lot of confusion, and help your company avoid potential pitfalls.
A version of this was first posted on Entrepreneur.com.