It’s a small business manager’s nightmare - an employee posts a brand-damaging photo online, and it goes viral. In fact, a growing small business challenge is how to manage employees’ social media use and its potential impact on company brand. One solution is to adopt a social media policy - guidelines for employees on appropriate social media use.
But a word for the wise - this is a fine line to walk. Yes, you want to protect your company, however, the policy must not infringe on employees’ rights. So how do you strike a balance?
In this article, we’ve outlined why you need a social media policy, best practices, and four HR tips to help you along the way.
Do We Need a Social Media Policy?
Having a written social media policy is a smart business decision for employers of any size.
Why? Here three key reasons you should adopt a social media policy, as discussed in Entrepreneur:
To protect your company’s brand and reputation.
To minimize confusion about murky legal issues.
To raise awareness of your brand.
Best Practices for Social Media Policies
You now understand why it’s important to have a social media policy, so what is legal? The NLRB outlines guidelines - basic do’s and don'ts - for social media policies.
According to the NLRB, to comply with the National Labor Relations Act, employers should:
Clearly and specifically communicate organization, legal, and regulatory rules to employees, executives, independent contractors, and others working on behalf of the company.
Provide employees with a clear understanding of what constitutes appropriate, acceptable, and lawful business behavior.
Demonstrate that the company is committed to operating a business environment in a straight-forward and NLRA-compliant manner.
4 HR Tips for an Effective (and Legal) Social Media Policy
Given these somewhat vague guidelines, we’ve boiled four HR tips any small business can apply.
1. Put the Policy in Writing
The first HR tip is simple, but often overlooked by small businesses. Don’t just talk to employees about your expectations with social media use. Put the policy in writing and make sure it is distributed to all current and new employees, as well as contractors and off-site employees. For added assurance, have your legal or HR expert verify that all procedures are legal and compliant.
2. Provide Specific Examples of Prohibited Conduct
The NLRB recommends that employers not make broad social media policies, so the solution is to make your social policies as specific as possible. For example, instead of asking employees not to mention your business by name, ask employees not to mention specific projects and proprietary or confidential information.
Being specific helps you stay compliant and it makes it easier for employees to know what is and isn't appropriate to post.
3. Communicate Expectations to Employees
Don’t just write a policy and slyly slip it into the employee manual. Organize a company meeting and train employees on the social media policy. Walk through the policy, provide examples, and answer questions. Frame your social media policy in the context of your company’s goals, mission, and vision, and communicate both the “what” and the “why.”
4. Help Employees Become Brand Ambassadors
A smart social media policy isn’t all about what employees cannot do. It can also be about what employees can, and are encouraged, to do to help promote your business.
For example, empower employees to talk on social media about the company’s culture, to share articles and resources about the company, and post job listings. These activities help build your company’s brand and can help with recruiting new employees.
An effective social media policy will put a framework in place for social media use, protect your business and employees, and empower employees to use social media to help your company grow.
Do you think small businesses need a social media policy? If so, what are your HR tips for creating one? Leave a comment below.