Social media policies in the spotlight.


Social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are crucial communication tools for businesses. A study, commissioned by LinkedIn, found 81% of small to medium enterprises use social media, and of those, 94% did so for marketing purposes.

Increasing reliance

There is clearly an increasing reliance on social media to:

  • gain exposure;
  • target new customers; and
  • maintain contact with current clients.

With this increasing reliance, the spotlight necessarily shines on a businesses’ social media policies and procedures – fundamental in seeking to reduce associated social media risks.

Social media policy – is it that important?

The primary functions of a social media policy is to:

  • provide guidance and a framework on acceptable social media use;
  • ensure that employees are aware of the ways in which their social media use can affect their employment, and the reputation of the business and its brand.

Given the perception (perhaps misconception) of social media as an extension of private life, the importance of these functions is increased in circumstances where the use of social media occurs outside the scope of employment.

5 handy tips to consider:

1. Incorporate into employment contracts

Incorporating the key components of social media guidelines into contracts of employment will help set up a compliance framework of what is considered appropriate or prohibited conduct.

2. Keep employees fully appraised

Being transparent about social media expectations with employees will facilitate better understanding and compliance amongst the workforce. As social media policies are updated staff should remain fully appraised.

 3. Evolve and revise as new platforms emerge

Technology and social medial platforms continue to evolve and emerge rapidly. As this occurs, guidelines and policies should be reviewed and, if necessary, updated to ensure that levels of protection for the business are maintained.

 4. Tightly control access

Social media usernames and password should be carefully safeguarded. If they fall into the wrong hands, then the possibility for reputational damage via social media can be huge and instant. Not only is the protection of the usernames and passwords important, so too is the line of authority for appointing administrators for social media pages. Most platforms have different levels of administrator each with different authority levels. Access levels should be carefully managed, particularly as in some cases it is possible to remove other administrators’ access.

5. Clearly distinguish between ‘personal’ and ‘professional’

Defamatory posts may expose an employer by virtue of it being vicariously liable for its employees’ workplace conduct. For that reason, employees must be trained on the importance of the distinction between professional and personal social media interaction. This is particularly important where the divide becomes blurred and social media commentary ventures into damaging territory.

Sizing up the policy

One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to regulating social media use in a business. The following factors will impact this:

  • the nature of the business;
  • the channels;
  • the content; and
  • the purpose.

That being said, our 5 handy tips should hopefully represent a useful starting point for businesses engaged in social media use.

In fewer than 140 characters…

What is clear, is that businesses must have an appropriate Social Media Policy for use of social media in the workplace. As the marketplace shines a spotlight on social media, we have kept it simple and to conclude in fewer than 140 characters… ‘prevention is better than cure’.

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Media & E-Commerce

Posted on: 20 January 2014