Social media policy – Do you need one?

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This question is arising more often and for  many organisations it is still a subject that  hasn’t gained enough weight to become a reality. In my estimation of current trends, this is a really bad management oversight.

Ignoring some of the specific inclusions in an effective social media policy, let’s just look at some reasons why it might be worthwhile investing time and money into constructing a policy that lets your employees know where they stand. Take a look at this light-hearted but extremely poignant cartoon that depicts a scenario where a social media policy may have saved the organisation a whole bunch of (1) headaches) and (2) a whole lot of money.

Whilst this is obviously a satirical look at both social media and requisite policies in support of social media, it does nevertheless highlight without question, the need for action on this topic, the sooner the better.

Policy decisions are needed and there are various parts of the organisation that are affected.

  1. Executive acceptance of the need for a social media policy.
  2. Corporate office/Public Relations/Human Resources/Marketing all need to be involved in the drafting and review of the content.
  3. The CEO needs to APPROVE the policy.
  4. The distribution list needs to include everyone in the organisation.

Because the policy is likely to affect employees from all parts of the organisation this is a good time to evaluate the progress of the organisation in relation to its attainment of being a social business. The creation of the policy (because of its far reaching impact) should have input by all those employees that feel they are in a position to contribute. Call it a litmus test if you like. Social business is about open and transparent decision making, assisted by input from a wider audience than pre-social business work practices.

The introduction of a social media policy suggests potential for conflict is very high so a collaborative approach to its construction will ensure acceptance and compliance. The delivery of it also needs to be considerate and very aware of the infringement on personal rights and freedom of speech. I particularly like this video produced by the Department of Justice in Victoria Australia as a non-combatant way to get the message out.

Being prepared for social media means having the right policies in place. Your organisation may not be ready to embrace the use of social media, or social networking sites, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to ignore the fact that they exist and also that your organisation may be the subject of their content. Your policy needs to ensure it contains clauses that cover your position in relation to original content creation by employees and also responses by employees to content posted by others, outside of the organisation.

If you work in an organisation that does not have a policy in place, you need to get it on the agenda for the next executive board meeting or potentially find yourselves fighting a rearguard action, as we saw in the cartoon.

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