The Need for a Social Media Policy

166295-ashes-memesSocial Media marketing is a popular topic around my office, we’re just beginning to establish a formal social media marketing plan and recently the question of whether we needed to develop a corporate social media policy came up. With the popularity of social networking sites, employers are finding themselves dealing with employees who are posting on social media to the detriment of the company’s brand.

A quick google search for social media disasters brings up pages upon pages of social media screw ups. This means it’s happening on regular basis. The frightening thing for a company is that all it takes is one little mistake, one wrong statement or one bad review and within minutes it’s been shared over and over again creating a major public image disaster in its wake. And once it’s on the internet…. it’s never going away.

Here is a list of three well known social media disasters that had a negative influence on each company’s image.

  1. Chrysler’s “F-Bomb” – Someone with access to Chrysler’s twitter account accidently posted the following tweet on the company’s account: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f**king drive.”
  2. Furniture store, “Habitat UK” tried using trending hashtags to get more followers: Habitat used popular hashtags that had absolutely nothing to do with their posts or brand to get people to notice them. They did get noticed, but not in a good way. They were called out for their spamming technique and consequently deleted their tweets.
  3. KitchenAid- during an American presidential debate, a KitchenAid employee tweeted an offensive comment about Obama’s deceased grandmother to KitchenAid’s 24 000 followers instead of to their personal page.

While a disgruntled employee is always a wild card, I would wager that most employees (even the ones in the above mentioned scenarios) aren’t intentionally looking to damage their companies image and many are even afraid to engage on social media on behalf of the company for fear of doing more harm than good. While, I am a big believer that there should only be one person in charge of managing social media, all employees are potential spokes persons for the company. A social media policy can not only protect the company from potential harm it can also give the employees guidance on how they can leverage social media to help promote the company’s brand.

In order to safeguard their brand, businesses should put together a social media policy with clear guidelines so their brand is enhanced by employees talking about their business on social media and their reputation is not soiled.

Check out these tips for help in putting together your own social media policy:

  • Outline who is allowed to post on social media on behalf of the company. If everyone is allowed to associate themselves with the company, make it clear they should brand their posts as their own personal opinions.
  • Outline what is considered confidential information.
  • Outline how to engage with people politely and diplomatically online.
  • Let people know that if they do make a mistake, they should contact the social media manager immediately so the situation can be rectified as soon as possible.

We have policies for health and safety, confidentiality, appropriate behavior in the work place and more, so it only makes sense that companies would develop policies to protect their reputations in an environment where one little mistake could cost them so much.



4 thoughts on “The Need for a Social Media Policy

  1. Interesting read, I think a clear policy regarding the use of social media may actually encourage people to use social media. The fat that a lot of companies and organizations do not have social media guidelines is a cause for more fear than is warranted. Thanks

    • Thanks for your comment Bruce, I totally agree. I think it’s very important becausee when employees are informed they can do better and deliver a clear message without fear of not knowing what’s okay to say/do.

  2. The hockey association that volunteer for recently implemented a social media policy for its members. In its original form it had indicated that members could not engage in a social media an hour before or an after following a game. After some protest that portion was removed, however it still states that no member can post anything critical, derogatory about the association, its coaches, volunteers etc. And while i agree in principal, it begs the question where does one draw the line between mandating what people can and cannot say, and their right to say it.

    • Absolutely. I think that’s a huge issue and definitely a reason many companies probably don’t have a social media policy yet. There is a fine line to walk between giving a guideline and limiting someones free speech. The other issue that should be considered is how can you tell someone what they can and can’t post in their own free time on their own personal profiles. It’s tricky…and because of how quickly these changes have occurred and how popular social media is I really think it’s going to take some time before businesses are going to be able to develop policies that make sense and cover all these bases.

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