There are ways that you can effectively manage your employees’ use of social media so that you can reap the benefits without negative issues arising.
Benefits of establishing a social media policy
By creating a social media policy, your employees are aware of the company’s boundaries and expectations. A social media policy also makes it clear to employees as to what is expected from their online behaviour.
It also helps employees draw a line between their private and professional lives and helps you to effectively manage performance.
A social media policy also helps to protect your organisation against liability for the actions of your employees and ensures you comply with the law on discrimination, data protection and protecting the health of employees.
A written policy on the acceptable use of social media at work can also help line managers manage staff performance effectively.
Preparing to develop a social media policy
Before you develop and introduce a social media policy for your workplace you should consult with your workforce and representatives. This can help ensure fairness and staff will more likely be bought into and adhere to a policy that has been developed with their contribution. See engaging with staff.
What should my social media policy include?
A social media policy should include:
- Definition and purpose of social media policy – outline what the policy is about and who it applies to – including those using work-related social media and those who access it in a personal capacity.
- Why use social media – describe the benefits to the organisation eg more effective engagement with customers, promoting products and marketing purposes.
- Roles and responsibilities – who will oversee social media activity and take overall responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the different activities. Read more on social media for business.
- Using work-related social media – what the limitations are as to what can be discussed, commented on or promoted via social media to avoid potential problems or reputational damage.
- Personal use of social media - description of what is seen as acceptable personal use of social media during work.
- Personal use of social media outside work – highlighting that your employees need to be mindful of their contributions and what they disclose about your company even when they’re at home, using their own equipment, in their own time.
- Monitoring use of social media – you must ensure that any monitoring is carried out in compliance with relevant legislation. See monitoring employees' social media usage.
- References to other relevant policies – eg disciplinary procedure or anti-bullying policy. Read more on disciplinary procedures, hearings and appeals and bullying and harassment.
- Sanctions - where it is believed that an employee has failed to comply with the policy, they will face the company's disciplinary procedure. Read more on disciplinary procedures, hearings and appeals.
- Ongoing review and update – provide details of who will be responsible for reviewing the policy and when this will be done.
Social media policy template
To help you create your own social media policy for your business, download our social media policy template (DOC, 20K).
To read more on developing a social media policy, read guidance on social media and the employment relationship.
Include social media in other staff policies
You may find that some of your existing workplace policies should also be updated to include a reference to your social media policy. These may include:
- Statement of main terms and conditions – if you are a small business and have a limited amount of policies and procedures, you may decide to include a section on social media usage within this policy.
- Discipline and grievance – you may want to include a section here on how you will deal with improper use of social media. See managing improper use of social media. It should also be made possible for employees to complain about inappropriate use eg cyber bulling and harassment.
- Communication – if you have a general communication policy, you should include a section on how social media will be used for communication purposes.
- Electronic communications – you may wish to include a section on using social media in respect of internet and mobile phone usage, eg what is deemed to be appropriate social media use within working hours.
- Bullying and harassment – online bullying could breach this policy, so you should also include a social media section here.
Read more on how to set up employment policies for your business.
Continued employee awareness
Once you have your social media policy in place, you must ensure your employees are aware of it and continue to keep it in mind. You should provide training on your social media policy to instil better awareness and understanding amongst your staff as to what is expected of them when using social media. Refresher training, eg every 24 months, can also be beneficial as a reminder to staff of the policy and can offer an opportunity to highlight any new updates to the social media policy. Especially as social media is an area that is constantly changing.
You should make new staff aware of all workplace policies during the induction process and remind all staff to adhere to company policies on a regular basis.
Many employers may fail in defending claims of unfair dismissal cases related to inappropriate use of social media for failing to either provide clear guidelines on use or not having consistent policy for managing issues when they arise.