Cherwell IT Service Management Blog
Resources, Best Practices, and Solutions for ITSM Pros

How to Create a Social Media Policy

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We often talk about the integration of social media into ITSM solutions, including Cherwell, and how social media supplements other communication channels. But today, guest blogger Phil Gerbyshak provides great advice on an often overlooked aspect of social media — the social media policy.

Many organizations mistakenly have no social media policy, and instead, they fall back upon a generic IT security policy. Many of these employees have sued to be reinstated and have won their cases. But there’s an easy solution: a simple social media policy.

What’s in a simple social media policy?

First, outline acceptable behavior. Start by understanding that no matter what, you will not, you cannot, block every social media channel. Your Internet security software that you use to block sites can’t keep up. And even if it does, your employees will just pull out their mobile devices and use those.

What is acceptable behavior? Acceptable behavior is how productive you expect employees to be, even after you allow them to access some social media. Acceptable social media behavior is also ways employees can share company news. Anything posted to your company website can be shared on any social media channel by any employee. Allowing your employees to share company news can be a great way to increase your marketing reach, and ultimately allows employees to feel a bigger part of your company.

Acceptable social media behavior is also sharing any job openings that have been posted on a job site or on the job portion of your website. With costs of employee hiring increasing, getting your employees to be part of your recruiting force, vetting potential employees by recommending only the people they feel have the most chance to succeed is economically smart and a great way to show your employees you value their opinions.

There may be other acceptable behaviors in your organizations, so add them by focusing on allowing, not permitting, use of social media.

Next, include any “must nots.” You shouldn’t have many of these, but you will have some. The most common “must nots” are:

  • No sharing of any corporate news or anything NOT on the company website. Include a link to the news section of your website, and explain that if the information isn’t here, it isn’t to be shared.
  • No disparaging of any employee, customer, supplier or partner by name or by title. Obviously, not everyone gets along with everyone else. Airing one’s dirty laundry in public is unnecessary and doesn’t make anyone feel or look good.
  • No commenting on any news stories. Remind employees that standing up for the company, or putting the company down, is not acceptable. That’s all you need to say here. If people have questions about any company news, include the marketing department’s phone number and email address where they can direct any questions they might get.

There are four other items you need to include in your simple social media policy:

  • Disclaimer: All employees should, at a minimum, say that they do not speak on behalf of your company and all opinions are the opinions of the employee only. This seems obvious but offering this disclaimer is a good way to remind folks that any employee channel is not an official corporate channel.
  • Punishment: This is something nobody likes to talk about but it is a reality. What will you do if employees violate the policy? It depends on what was violated. I recommend listing that “any and all violations may result to disciplinary action up to and including termination,” and then reviewing each breach on a case by case basis.
  • Signature and date: You need to have a signature and date on the form, just like any other important form.
  • Review and re-sign date: Let employees know this will be reviewed every 6-12 months, and they will need to re-sign the form. This will remind them of the importance of this policy, as well as give your managers a regularly scheduled time to discuss this with employees to ensure it isn’t impacting performance.

You can probably fit your simple social media policy on a single page, possibly two. Include it with your other IT policies, and have each employee sign it when they start as a matter of course. You’ll protect your managers and your company from having to guess at what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior.

Read more blogs about ITSM and social media.