By Sue Tumelty, Founder and Executive Director of HR Dept
TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and now Threads… social media provides employees with a million and one ways to bring a company into disrepute: from posing in uniform and bad-mouthing customers on a personal channel to making an ill-judged comment on their official page. With 98% of workers saying that they have social media for personal use, it is intrinsic to a business that they have legislation in place to prevent any mishaps from happening.
Down under, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of New South Wales even had to warn its members about creating (presumably adult) content on OnlyFans.
The dangers are not limited to such reputational damage. Bullying, a lack of productivity, privacy and cybersecurity issues, or more niche problems like accidental insider trading within financial services are all potential threats. Statistics have proven that one in 10 job seekers between the age of 16 and 34 have been rejected from a job because of something posted on social media. Being conscious of a digital footprint is more essential than ever.
This means that any employer should now have a social media policy for its staff. More than this, the employer needs to make sure it is clearly communicated and, if necessary, enforced.
What is a social media policy?
A social media policy sets out the rules and parameters of social media usage, both on a company’s official channels and, where it can be linked back to the company, employees’ personal accounts. It will also explain the consequences of breaches – linked to their disciplinary policy.
A social media policy will apply to all members of staff, from the most junior to the most senior.
What kind of things should a social media policy include?
There are many points which should be included in a social media policy, ones that may seem like common sense, but it is important to spell them out.
Relating to your company pages, these may include:
- Specifying who is authorised on the accounts
- A sign-off process
- Understanding copyright
- Warning against publishing confidential information
- Staying on brand (e.g., proper spellings, avoiding slang)
- Fact-checking before publication or reposting
- A complete ban on profanity and hate speech
- Careful protection of log-in details, and other cybersecurity matters
- How to escalate problems and respond to crises
There might not be as much control over personal usage, but there are important things to cover:
- Avoiding posts that will bring the company into disrepute
- Posting nothing which may be construed as bullying by colleagues
- Prohibiting personal social media use during company time
- Possibly including a disclaimer on profiles that an individual’s views are not representative of the company
Once policies have been written, it is important that they are communicated to all staff, and that it can be proved that everyone has had access. This is so that they can be referred to during any subsequent disciplinary process, and should any sanction be challenged at tribunal.
Onboarding of new staff is an obvious time to do this, as well as periodical reminders to existing staff or when an employee is newly charged with operating company social media accounts. Employees can be wonderful advocates for your business – both to customers and prospective staff. Safely harnessing the energy, they bring can give a major competitive advantage.
Love it or loathe it, social media is entwined in everyone’s lives now. The BBC/Gary Lineker/UK government episode earlier in 2023 shows just how much a few lines of text can derail operations when there is no clarity on what is allowed.