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Corporate Policies for Personal Social Media

Simon Bell 

December 21, 2018

Sharing content on social media can bring huge positives for any organization. Having your employees spread the word about your company to their personal LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram channels can generate a huge promotional buzz. And it’s free!

That’s great when the posts are positive and “on-message,” but it’s not so great when people start to share negative opinions, or criticism of your organization’s products, processes or management. And it can turn toxic if personal workplace rivalries and relationships spill out onto social media platforms.

The damage can range from the loss of reputation to the exposure of commercial secrets. This can trigger conflict, damaged relationships, or even litigation.

That’s why a policy on your co-workers’ use of social media can be a great help to your organization. It shouldn’t be a weighty book of rules – the lighter the touch, the better – but it should make clear what workplace subjects are appropriate and beneficial to talk about online. And, just as importantly, which are not.

It’s a good idea to deliver social media training as part of your onboarding program. That way, you emphasize what’s acceptable from the outset, and help to create a culture of good online behavior.

Using Social Media Wisely

Encourage your people to use their social media to share positive experiences about your organization. These include learning tips, details of new skills, and examples of best practice. They can also share details of products and services, as long as these have already been fully released into the public domain.

Using LinkedIn effectively, for example, can help to generate website traffic and sales leads, as well as providing a space in which to connect with like-minded professionals and industry leaders. So it’s important when introducing the idea of social media etiquette not to frighten people away from using it.

You should also distinguish between the use of official company channels (to which only a few individuals should have access) and the use of personal accounts to promote your business. Be clear that official announcements belong in the official channel. Employees shouldn’t use their private accounts to misrepresent your organization, even inadvertently.

Respecting Confidentiality

You do need some firm rules, of course. Sharing confidential business information on social media is never acceptable. This includes, for example, sharing company financial information, and details of new products that are still in development. Substantial restructuring within the organization should also be private. And employees should never share details of clients without prior approval.

What should remain confidential is usually obvious. But sometimes, people need to be careful. Sharing details of a personal promotion on LinkedIn, for example, may seem innocent enough. But what if that promotion involves heading up a new team that’s rolling out a market-disrupting new service? You might not want to give your competitors a heads-up about that.

Policing Personal Social Media

People use different social media channels for sharing a whole range of content. They often post photos of friends and family on Facebook and Instagram, for example. Sharing those photos of the office party might seem like harmless fun, but were a few of your co-workers a little the worse for wear, or getting a little too close to each other for comfort?

There’s a balancing act here. You want to encourage people to share positive perceptions of their employer. But you also need to tell them that there’s stuff they shouldn’t post. Avoid implementing your policy in too heavy-handed a manner, though. Otherwise, you can make it seem as though the organization is using its employees to get good free publicity, while stifling their freedom of expression.

Help your people to understand that what they post on social media reflects their own personal brand, as well as their organization’s. If they use social media channels to settle scores, or to moan about where they’re working, it reflects badly on them. This awareness may help to minimize negative comment when a person leaves your organization, particularly if they’ve done so with unresolved grievances.

Does your organization have guidelines on what your employees can post on their personal social media accounts? Share your tips or experiences in the Comments box, below.

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