Social media has become an extremely valuable tool for businesses in the last few years. While social media can be an ideal platform for effectively branding and development of positive organization’s image, improper use of social media accounts can be extremely damaging.
With the increased use of social networks in the workplace social media can be used either intentionally or unintentionally, to leak confidential information, intellectual property, articulate dissatisfaction, criticize management, harass each other or display embarrassing behaviour of employees. Many companies restrict the usage of social media during workplace hours, due to poorer performance. Enhancing brand value and protecting core assets may be very challenging in digital world, so guidelines are a necessity in order to preserve freedom of employees and partners at one side and brand value at the other side balanced.
In 2013, Taco Bell employee posted a picture in which he was licking the taco bells, which resulted in public outrage and disgust. He was fired and company somehow managed to safe their reputation here. In 2019, a British Company HMV employee live tweeted about 60+ people getting fired. How things can go wrong on social media you can read here.
Much of the literature about social media use in the workplace therefore describes legal cases that involve an employee who was dismissed or disciplined by the employer as a consequence of social media posts. In order to avoid such negative outcomes and in order to minimize instances of cyberloafing, employers seek effective means to control social media behaviour in the workplace. Social media policies can, amongst others, indicate clearly to employees what information is appropriate to share online and what is not.
A social media policy is a comprehensive document that describes in detail how the company and its employees use social media. These policies are meant to protect a brand from legal risk, and maintain its reputation on social media.
Where a social media policy lays out the rules and repercussions for breaking them, social media guidelines are more instructive. These guidelines should outline how the employees should behave on social media in a way that’s positive and healthy for the company, employees, and customers. The purpose of media guidelines is often to minimize risk; however, some companies establish social media guidelines to encourage positive contributions from employees. With this open and transparent policy, written as a guide and not as strictly enforceable rules, organization also demonstrates sufficient trust in their employees.
Before drawing down the guidelines, inspiration is usually obtained from other guidelines. Before drafting social media guidelines, it is especially important to emphasize the protection of companies’ confidential information, intellectual property, information about current and future products, services or research, financial data, personal information, contract relationships, customer databases and security information. However, it is also important to collaborate with employees and listen to their opinions and expertise of their own staff, in that way the s reflect what really shouldn’t be shared publicly on social media or anywhere else for that matter.