When an employee bashes your company in a negative social media post, can they legally be disciplined? Or is that their freedom of speech?
Still no social media policy? Where to start
Many companies are apprehensive to embrace employee use of social media, but what they really need is a well-written social media policy.
Social media, whether you like it or not, has become crucial to how businesses run, connect, and market themselves. Yet many business owners have overlooked developing a social media policy, and that could severely hurt their reputation and reach.
To set expectations, protect your company, and positively engage with employees and customers, your social media policy should cover these three main categories:
- Employee personal social media use
- Social media use in the office
- Your company’s social media presence
1. Employee Personal Social Media Use
Face it – the chances that all of your employees have some form of social media is extremely high. But you can use this to your advantage!
Starting from the applicant phase, you can view a person's social profile to learn about their character and professionalism. You may also quickly identify a personality or sense of humor that would be a good fit for your company culture.
But cautiously use social media as an applicant screening tool.
You may learn about protected characteristics through social media that you may not want to know until after meeting them in person (i.e. sex, race) --- or that you may not want to know at all (i.e. religion, age, health). Be sure your hiring manager is well educated about this and has job-related reasons for hiring (or not hiring) the candidate.
After an employee has been hired, remind employees in your social media policy that their personal posts may bleed over to their professional interests. Be sure to explain concerns such as negative posts, what’s considered cyber bullying, and the rules that govern your company’s code of conduct.
When outlining what type of post could result in disciplinary action, be sure you tread lightly. The NLRB protects employees who post about something that may be perceived as “protected activity,” no matter how vulgar or distasteful their post may read.
On a more positive note, social media can also be used beneficially. Employees can promote your company’s mission, vision, products, deals, coupons, services, philanthropy efforts, and more to a broad network of people. What’s in it for them? Employment. Maybe some incentives.
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- Vulgar Facebook Post was “Protected Activity”
2. Social Media Use in the Office
Social media has also taken a front seat in the office. More often than not, your employees may be playing on their phones and checking their pages throughout the day. These ‘microbreaks’ can occasionally be useful to help with productivity, as they give the brain a moment to gather itself. However, excessive multitasking can make it harder to absorb information when you're flicking back and forth between tabs.
Try creating a list of rules for the workplace to moderate social media use. For some companies, it makes sense to ban it altogether. For others, it makes sense to have employees monitor and engage with customers as soon as they post on the company forum.
Another technique is to create an internal social media network, such as a company culture board. Many companies use this as a way for employees to connect, interact, and to create an internal workplace community. An internal culture board also spares email bandwidth when an employee wants to share the latest cat video or pictures from last week’s practical joke.
3. Your Company’s Social Media Presence
The last part of your social media policy should cover how you present yourself as a brand online. Most consumers expect businesses to have an online presence, and many prefer customer service options be available via social media.
If you have multiple employees monitoring and responding to questions on your social media site, you may want to create shortcuts that are easy to pre-populate. This will help keep employees consistent with their responses while quickly resolving questions that arise.
In your social media policy, emphasize that administrators or anyone that posts on behalf of the business should portray the company in a positive, professional way and to stay away from divisive topics such as politics, religion, or anything discriminatory. Outline expectations for how often they post and how quickly to respond. Be sure to specify the tone they should set with their posts, comments, and interactions, such as “fun, kind, and to the point.”
Make Social Media Work for Your Company
Social media is here to stay, so creating a policy to make it work for your company’s benefit is a necessity. Your unique protocols will depend on your company and how interacting with social networks works best for you.
Instead of avoiding social media, create a policy that is well-worded and easy to understand.
Stratus.hr helps companies stay up-to-date with workplace policies and provides on-the-go access to your employee handbook via our mobile app. For more information, please complete the form below.