Organizations often worry about their employees posting about work on social media. What if they make us look bad?

But, with the proper guidance and support, they can be one of your most powerful marketing assets.

How powerful? According to LinkedIn, the average employee network has 10X more connections than the company they work for. Moreover, content sees double the click-through rate when employees share rather than corporate accounts.

To leverage those benefits (and avoid the potential pitfalls), you need an internal social media policy to encourage advocacy and define how employees should represent themselves and your brand through their public-facing social profiles.

Read on for our top tips on creating an effective internal social media policy.

1. Set Objectives for Your Internal Social Media Policy

Different organizations have different employee advocacy goals. For instance, you might want your employees to:

  • Discuss their working environment to support the company’s recruitment efforts
  • Communicate their expertise to attract potential clients
  • Share the brand’s content in their own words to boost your social media engagement and website traffic

Those are just three examples of potential goals for your employee advocacy program, and they all require very different approaches to drafting a social media policy.

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If it’s all about recruitment, your policy document should focus on issues like diversity, equity, and inclusion (and how to discuss them online). If leads and sales are your ultimate goals, you’d want to explain the types of clients you’re trying to reach and the areas of expertise that would most likely engage them.

It’s important to define the objective(s) before you start working on your social media policy to give yourself the best chance of achieving the desired results.

2. Lay Out the Purpose of Your Social Media Policy & Who It Applies To

If your employees don’t understand why you’re creating an internal social media policy, they’re unlikely to adopt it, which means you’ve wasted your time.

When communicating the purpose to staff, be as open and honest as possible. Ensure they understand you’re not trying to stop them from posting on social media—quite the opposite. Instead, you’re striving to ensure that when they do discuss work online, they do it in a way that supports your business goals, benefits your current and future customers, and doesn’t leave you open to any potential legal or PR headaches.

At this stage, it also makes sense to define who your social media policy applies to. Is it just for senior leaders, or does it extend to all permanent employees? How about interns, freelancers, and contractors?

3. Define Ownership of Your Social Media Policy

Like any new workplace initiative, employees will have questions about your internal social media policy.

Ease potential confusion by setting a central point of contact for any policy-related queries. It could be a shared email address or Slack channel manned by a whole team of policy leaders or a single person who’s happy to shoulder the responsibility.

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Whoever is in charge should be aware that they play an essential role in the success or failure of your employee advocacy efforts. Ensure they’re genuinely passionate about leading your advocacy program rather than treating it as another distraction from their “day job” and have all the necessary tools and resources to achieve your goals.

4. Set (Loose) Tone of Voice Parameters

This is one of the most challenging steps in building an effective internal social media policy.

On the one hand, you don’t want to stifle your employees’ creative flair or force them all to speak like mindless corporate drones on social media. Chances are that’ll have the exact opposite effect you want to create from your advocacy program.

However, it’s sensible to have guardrails in place to mitigate the risks of reputational damage to your brand.

These parameters will inevitably look different from one brand to the next. If you’re an edgy brand like Liquid Death, you probably don’t mind your team members being outspoken on social media (in fact, you’d positively encourage it). However, if you work for a Big Four consulting firm, you’d expect your employees always to be professional.

@liquiddeath Next time you lose your temper at your stepdad, just remember he didn’t choose you, either.🖤. Repost from // @vflow_xo // #liquiddeath #murderyourthirst #deathtoplastic ♬ original sound – Liquid Death

Consider outlining specific topics or types of information that employees should definitely avoid posting, such as:

  • Derogatory, defamatory, or inflammatory posts
  • Secure company information, like passwords, email addresses, or intellectual property
  • Crisis response plans

Or, if you don’t want to get so granular with your guidelines, a good rule of thumb for explaining what counts as acceptable (or unacceptable) behavior is: if you wouldn’t say it in front of your boss, don’t post it.

5. Explain Expectations for Personal Social Media Activity

Unless your employees are creating (or already own) work-specific social media accounts, there’s a good chance they’ll share a combination of personal and professional content.

This creates another tricky gray area for developing a social media policy.

You can’t control everything your employees say and do online, nor should you want to. But they must understand that their actions can affect your company. If they say something hideously offensive or spread misinformation on a public profile (or even a private one), it could also reflect poorly on your brand.

You’ll want to outline basic behavioral expectations, such as avoiding negative comments about your brand, competitors, or industry and checking their facts via reputable sources.

You might also want employees to add a disclaimer to their social media profiles stating that their opinions are theirs alone and don’t necessarily align with their employer’s perspective.

6. Discuss Fair Sharing of Third-Party Content

Some of the content your employees share online will be “owned” assets, such as blog posts you’ve written, videos you’ve created, or recordings of webinars you organized and hosted. But they’ll invariably also post content they found from third-party sources like government agencies, media organizations, and rival brands.

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It’s important they understand not to rip off copyrighted or trademarked content or misrepresent other people’s hard work as their own. If you don’t have permission to use a specific piece of content, your best bet is to simply “repost” it rather than share it in a whole new post.

7. Share the Consequences of Policy Violations

Creating an internal social media policy isn’t about scaring employees away from posting about work. That’d be counterintuitive, given the wide-ranging benefits of employee advocacy. But at the same time, they need to understand what will happen if they deliberately infringe on your policies.

Most violations require nothing more than editing or deleting an individual post. However, occasionally, you might force an employee to issue a public apology for their social media actions. If their infringement involved publishing sensitive company information, it could even cost them their job.

8. Encourage Accessible, Inclusive Posting

Chances are, your brand has a broad audience. And you don’t want any of them to feel attacked or excluded by your employees’ social media posts.

That’s why you should take the time to share best practices around inclusive and accessible posting. For instance, you might encourage staff members to:

  • Avoid gendered pronouns (and respect other people’s preferred pronouns)
  • Steer clear of gender or race-specific emoji
  • Add descriptive captions to images and subtitles to videos
  • Consider issues of representation when choosing social media imagery
  • Never make assumptions based on protected characteristics like age, gender, or race

9. Offer Advice for Dealing With Negativity

Social media can be a wonderful place but can also be intensely negative.

If your employees post online regularly, they will eventually encounter some criticism. A friendly disagreement is fine, but if it gets personal or abusive in any way, they need to know how to handle it. Should they block the offending troll and move on? Report the incident to their team leader? Or simply ignore it?

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Providing clear guidance for dealing with online abuse reassures your staff that you have their best interests at heart. As a bonus, it also reduces the risk of reputational damage to your brand from employees getting involved in ever-escalating online arguments.

For more advice on this issue, check out our top tips for navigating negativity on social media.

10. Define How To Interact With Customers

For many companies, encouraging staff to discuss work online can help them reach more potential customers. But what happens when a current or future customer contacts a team member with a question or complaint?

You might decide the best course of action is for the employee to simply say “thanks” for the query and then pass the matter on to the most relevant department (like your social media or customer support team).

Other organizations will be perfectly happy for employees to speak to customers on their behalf. If you’re in that boat, you should set some behavioral guidelines. What tone of voice do you want them to adopt? Are you happy for them to apologize on the company’s behalf? How about confidentiality — is there any internal information they shouldn’t give away?

The more clarity you provide (and the clearer you communicate it with your team), the more mutually beneficial your employees’ social media efforts will be.

Want to discover how top brands and social media leaders encourage effective employee advocacy? Sign up for one of our upcoming social media conferences.

Featured image by Pexels.


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