Whether your brand is on social media or not, it’s important that every business have a social media policy in place.
It’s all too common for a company to have to apologise for an employee’s thoughtlessness on a Facebook post or a Tweet, says Lunice Johnston, founder of Lunice Johnston Communications, a reputation management business. “A social media policy outlines how an organisation and its staff should conduct themselves online.”
According to Labour Guide, guidelines in a social media policy could include:
- Employees must be advised to block access to their profiles for other users that they do not know.
- Remind employees that internet and email communication may be monitored and intercepted as per the electronic communications policy of the employer.
- Company information must be kept confidential.
- The company name or logo may not be used on private profiles.
Entrepreneurs can spend years building your brand online, but without a solid understanding of social media and its potential risks – and a social media policy in place – your brand is vulnerable to reputational damage, as well as legal or security problems, warns Johnston.
Security problems include company accounts being hacked and social media accounts’ passwords being stolen.
“Even small companies with a two or three-person team should know about the dangers of social media, and brief the staff accordingly,” says Johnston.
She adds: “Messages, images and video clips on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram can go viral within seconds, reaching millions of people, and once online, the content is there forever.
“It is important, then, that you and everyone in your company stick to a few social media rules, and be aware of the tools at your disposal that can protect you.”
Johnston on how to put together a social media policy AND how you should be dealing with online risk.
On what to include in your social media policy
In the policy [include] prohibited social media conduct [such as] the posting of commentary, content or images that are defamatory, pornographic, libellous, or that can create a negative perception of the company brand.
Also, employees should never post something negative about a client or potential client.
The policy should be in plain English to ensure that everybody understands it.
On what NOT to share online
Don’t share personal information, including your birth date, address, ID card or ID photo – anything that can be used by fraudsters to steal your identity.
On legal risks
Think carefully before sharing images or controversial messages online or via mobile, as if it’s offensive or defamatory, it can lead to legal action.
Conversely, you have the right to request that a defamatory post is removed and if it is not, take disciplinary or legal action against the offender.
On remaining vigilant
Google search your name and the name of your company from time-to-time. Activate Google Alerts for your company, and on your own social media profiles, be protective of your privacy and vigilant of who you invite as friends/followers.
On employee offline behaviour
Ensure you and your employees are well behaved especially when in branded vehicles or clothes, as motorists or observers are quick to take photos or videos when somebody transgresses, then post these online.
On dealing with a crisis
All social media platforms should be regularly monitored regardless of whether a crisis has arisen or not, but a crisis will require extra vigilance.
Any mistakes or negative posts should be dealt with immediately, with correct information communicated by the individual appointed to do this. Never argue online, and provide regular updates.
If necessary, send out an apology, refrain from posting anything more and stay offline until a social media strategy is agreed upon and the matter is resolved.