The ABCs of Creating an Effective Social Media Policy

In most cases, companies create new social media policies to fix recent problems. All too often, the process looks like the following: An inappropriate employee action is discovered by management who immediately requests either HR or the Legal Department to craft a new policy dealing with the issue. A collection of “official experts” is quickly thrown together and sits down to write what they consider to be an appropriate response to the past infraction. This new policy is then hastily communicated to employees via email or the organizational intranet. And the entire process is repeated once the next new infraction occurs. As you can see, this procedure is far from effective causing employees to both ignore and in some cases, completely disregard critical safeguards you’re trying to put in place.

To develop a social media policy that is well-received by employees and capable of accomplishing the company’s goals, organizations should utilize a simple procedural framework. Just think “A-B-C.”

A – Assemble your team

The first step in creating a successful social media policy is to assemble a team of people who will be responsible for drafting the regulations. This team should be composed of professionals who hold positions of executive authority within the organizations, as well as non-executives who bring specialized knowledge or expertise to the table. For example, an entry-level employee with an advanced degree in data security would be an asset to this team even though he doesn’t work in management.

After you have assembled the team, you must evaluate your organization’s current position with regard to social media. One of the easiest ways to do this is by surveying your team members. Ask them about their knowledge of any state or federal laws that affect employees’ use of social media. You should also ask them what they know about employees’ current use of social media platforms. To obtain more in-depth knowledge, distribute confidential questionnaires to all employees.

B- Baseline the process and garner support

Analyze the data you obtained through your surveys and discussion to determine your organization’s baseline of policy awareness and social media use. Next, garner support from the people who will play key roles in the development of your new policy. Assign specific tasks to each member of your team, and reach out to anyone outside the team who will need to approve your new policy after it is complete.

C- Create and communicate

Use the information you have gained and the expertise of your team’s members to develop a social media policy that works for your company and communicate this policy to the rest of the organization. Not every social media policy will be the same. However, it’s generally wise to include a few basic principles. For example, when designating who should release social media posts on behalf of your company, be extremely specific. Employees should understand exactly who will speak on social media, when they will speak and what they will say.

Finally, you must communicate your new social media policies to employees. This requires more effort than simply distributing electronic copies of the policy. Take some time to discuss the policies with employees to be sure that they understand them completely. As time goes on, revisit your policies when you need to and update them as needed.

Christopher Wofford is Digital Media Producer and host of WebSeries at eCornell.
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