Social Media for Employers – Part Three: Drafting a Social Media Policy

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This is the third in a five-part blog series designed to help employers understand, and then manage, their Social Media Risks. The other blogs in the series are:

Social Media for Employers – Part One: What are Your Risks?

Social Media for Employers – Part Two: Managing Your Social Media Risks.

Social Media for Employers – Part Four: Things Staff Should Do.

Social Media for Employers – Part Five: Things Staff Shouldn’t Do.

In Part One of this series we outlined 10 social media risk scenarios that employers may face. We followed this up in Part Two explaining that the concept of a stand alone “Social Media Policy” is actually a misnomer and, that in order for such a policy to be effective, it must be part of a co-ordinated and properly documented human resources management strategy. If you haven’t read these posts it’s worth going back and checking them out because they set the context for this blog.

Two Social Media Policies Not One?

Once you actually sit down to draft a Social Media Policy one of the first things you will notice is that you are most likely going to have to draft two policies, not one.

The obvious policy that all businesses will need is a Social Media Personal Usage Policy which provides guidelines to staff when they use their own personal social media accounts.

Secondly; if your organisation has a social media presence, it will need to develop a Social Media Business Usage Policy. The purpose of this policy is to set guidelines with respect to the administration and/or publication of content on your organisation’s own social media platforms. This is designed to promote your brand but also protect it from defamation, breach of copyright and other pitfalls.

The policies will have a number of things in common.  For example they should both provide a broad definition of “social media”, which should be left open to include new forms of social media that will undoubtedly emerge in the future.  They should cross reference each other and they should also be accompanied by a training course which will be used to effectively communicate the content of the respective policies.

Designing a Business Usage Policy

How you design your Business Usage Policy will, of course, depend on the Social Media platforms your organisation uses and its views as to the level of control it wants with respect to material published on its branded social media sites.

One simple way to encourage all staff to contribute to social media publications whilst maintaining control, is to establish simple procedures for staff to submit their publication ideas, whilst simultaneously only allowing authorised staff to actually publish content on your branded social media sites. Put crudely, all staff are prohibited from publishing content unless they are specifically authorised to do so.

The first dilemma you will come up against is that each form of social media has different attributes which potentially require different authoring and publication skills.  For example, publications on twitter tend to be high volume and conversational.   Blogs, on the other hand, tend to be published less frequently, require a higher level of authoring skill, and will often provide advice or opinion.

To accommodate these variances, individual authorisations will need to be tied to particular forms of social media. By way of example one staff member may be authorised only to publish on twitter, whilst another may be authorised only to publish blogs.

As boring as it seems, a good old fashioned register of authorisations will most likely be required to ensure that your organisation maintains control of its branded social media sites.

Finally, your organisation will need to design a training program for staff that must be undertaken before they are authorised to publish content on your social media platforms.  This training will cover issues such as online brand promotion and protection, privacy and confidentiality as well as guidelines for conducting online conversations and/or responding to comments.  You would also be well advised to obtain written confirmation of each individual’s understanding of the training in case there is any dispute arising as what is, or is not, appropriate on-line behavior.

Designing a Personal Usage Policy

Your organisation’s Social Medial Personal Usage Policy will set out your expectations of staff members (and potentially contractors) when using their own social media accounts. This is to be enforced where their identity can be linked back to your organisation – or where their published content makes reference, or implies information about your organisation, its products or services, its staff, directors, or other stakeholders, extending as far as competitors.

As noted in Part Two of this blog series where we explained the concept of a stand alone “Social Media Policy” being a misnomer, the overall design of your organisation’s Social Media Personal Usage Policy will be dependent on the overall quality of your human resources infrastructure.

For example, in an organisation with a robust human resources infrastructure its Social Media Personal Usage Policy will most likely simply reference key documents such as the employment contract, as well as key policies, including:

  • Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination, Harassment Policies
  • Bullying & Violence Policies
  • Email and Internet Usage Policy
  • Internal Grievance Procedures
  • Counselling & Discipline Policies.

By referencing other key documents and policies the Social Media Personal Usage Policy can be greatly simplified and focus on its key deliverable, which is to set out guidelines for what staff can and can’t do.

Parts Four and Five of this series will focus on key do’s and don’ts for staff.

We hope you are getting value out of this blog series.  This is an emerging area of the law and human resources practice which will continue to evolve into the future.  We welcome your comments and/or feedback and provide an open invitation for you to contact us should you wish to discuss this subject in further detail.

What Can CompliSpace Do to Help?

CompliSpace delivers a series of enhanced Social Media policies and online training courses as part of our comprehensive suite of online human resources programs, policies and procedures.  These are not template documents but rather policies and procedures that are specifically designed to be tailored to the needs of your organisation and integrated with other online content modules. For more information please visit www.complispace.com.au or contact us on +61 2 9299 6105 or contactus@complispace.com.au

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