Do you worry about your employees’ use of social media?

June 22, 2023

TikTok, Facebook, Twitter… social media provides employees with a million and one ways to bring your company into disrepute: from posing in uniform and bad-mouthing customers on a personal channel to making an ill-judged comment on your official page.

Down under, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of New South Wales even had to warn its members about creating (presumably adult) content on OnlyFans.

The dangers are not limited to such reputational damage. Bullying, a lack of productivity, privacy and cybersecurity issues, or more niche problems like accidental insider trading within financial services are all potential threats.

This means that any employer now should have a social media policy for its staff. More than this, you should make sure it is clearly communicated and, if necessary, enforced.

What is a social media policy?
A social media policy sets out the rules and parameters of social media usage, both on your company’s official channels and, where it can be linked back to the company, employees’ personal accounts. It will also explain the consequences of breaches – linked to your disciplinary policy.

A social media policy will apply to all members of staff, from the most junior to the most senior.

What kind of things should a social media policy include?
There are many points which you should include in a social media policy that you would think are common sense, but it is important to spell them out.

Relating to your company pages, these may include:

Specifying who is authorised on the accounts
Your sign-off process
Understanding copyright
Warning against publishing confidential information
Staying on brand (e.g. proper spelling, avoiding slang)
Fact-checking before publication or reposting
A complete ban on profanity and hate speech
Careful protection of log-in details, and other cybersecurity matters
How to escalate problems and respond to crises
And so on.

You don’t have as much control over personal usage, but there are important things to cover:

Avoiding posts that will bring the company into disrepute
Posting nothing which may be construed as bullying by colleagues
Prohibiting personal social media use during company time
Possibly including a disclaimer on profiles that an individual’s views are not representative of the company

What next?
Once you have written policies, it is important that they are communicated to all staff, and that you can prove that everyone has had access. This is so that you can refer to them during any subsequent disciplinary process, and should any sanction be challenged at the tribunal.

Onboarding of new staff is an obvious time to do this, as well as periodical reminders to existing staff or when an employee is newly charged with operating company social media accounts.

We’d like to end on a positive, so don’t forget the power for good that social media can be too. Your employees can be wonderful advocates for your business – both to customers and prospective staff. Safely harnessing this energy they bring can give you a major competitive advantage.

Help with social media policies.
Love it or loathe it, social media is entwined in our lives now. The BBC/Gary Lineker/UK government episode earlier in 2023 shows just how much a few lines of text can derail operations when there is no clarity on what is allowed.

At The HR Dept, we specialise in writing workplace policies and would love to help you with yours. We can also help you when something goes wrong, so contact your local HR Dept when you are in need.