8 Tips for creating a savvy Social Media Policy

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1 8 Tips for creating a savvy Social Media Policy

2 Introduction In today s modern world, the number of people using social media continues to rise on a daily basis. Whether or not you re using social channels as part of your business operations, it s pretty safe to assume that your staff are accessing sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn very regularly. As an employer, this isn t a cause for concern, and the benefits for your business can actually be massive. But, it s something that you do need to carefully consider and create a robust policy for. Will you allow the use of social media during the working day? Will certain members of staff need access to social networks as part of their day-to-day activities? Will you appoint a social media manager, as a new role within your business? And how exactly will you deal with the topical issue of how to deal with potential problems, such as a member of staff bringing your business into disrepute online? Your social media policy should address all of these issues and more, and the bottom line here is that you need to be focused on policy creation as soon as you possibly can. The use of social media is only going to rise, and it continues to play an integral part in our daily lives. From interacting with friends, to carrying out research and finding new information, to discovering new products and services that can make our everyday routines easier, there isn t any aspect of modern living that hasn t been touched by developments in the online space. Knowing you need a policy for this though is one thing, but how exactly do you approach the process of getting it right and rolling it out successfully in your business? In this guide, we look at eight top tips that will ensure you re on the right path, and have all your bases covered. Put these into action, and creating a fit-for-purpose social media policy will be much more achievable than you might initially think.

3 1. Rally your team together Creating a new policy that will have an impact on the people in your business isn t something that you should do alone. It s not just a case of locking yourself away in your office for a few hours, deciding on the best course of action, and then publishing the new document on your intranet system. It has to be a collaborative process, and there are several reasons for this. First of all, this approach allows you to tap into the knowledge and understanding of a broad cross-section of your workforce. This is especially important if you re not an avid social media user, or there are elements that you feel that you aren t quite up to date with.in addition to this, making the policy writing process something that all staff can get involved with will mean that it s much more likely to be well received and taken on board in the way that you hope. So in practical terms, you might decide that you ll send a bulletin to all your staff members asking for volunteers to help with the creation of the new social media policy. This might result in a project team that includes directors, line managers, operational workers, and admin staff. It should go without saying, but involving staff members from all levels in your business shouldn t be seen as a way of just going through the motions and ticking the right boxes. Listen to what everyone has to say, and give it serious consideration in your decisionmaking processes. The result will be a happier, more engaged, and more productive workforce. 2. Consider the legal implications Before rolling out any new policy that will have an impact on your staff, you need to think about existing legislation and how you ll ensure that your business is compliant. Here are a few key considerations that you need to take into account: The Human Rights Act 1998 This Act gives a 'right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence'. Generally speaking, your staff have a right to a reasonable level of privacy in the workplace. It might be tempting to develop some sort of system that monitors the sites

4 your employees are accessing, and how often, but it s important to create an environment of trust, rather than one of policing and intrusiveness. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 This Act addresses to what extent employers can monitor and record communications that are being sent to or from the business s telecommunication systems. The business is not generally permitted to intercept communications, though there are two key exceptions worth noting here: When the employer can reasonably believe that the sender and the intended recipient have consented to the inception. If there is a valid reason such as preventing crime, protecting the business, or complying with financial legislation and regulations. In this case, no consent is needed. Case law has demonstrated that when issues arise with social media policies in the workplace, it s usually surrounding employee relations. Get appropriate legal advice from a professional HR expert if you re in any doubt at all. 3. Take into account your existing policies Creating a social media policy shouldn t mean starting completely from scratch. You should ensure that all your people policies are aligned and compliment each other wherever possible. So, for example, you should state that if any misconduct takes place and the policy is not adhered to, the usual disciplinary route will be taken. Then, you d simply provide the link to the existing policy in that area. You don t have to reinvent the wheel! Another key policy which is likely to be impacted by your social media policies is recruitment. Social networking sites can be excellent tool in your kit when it comes to attracting and selecting the top talent for your business, as it s cost effective, can strengthen your brand, and can bring about fantastic results. Research from Jobvite found that 94% of recruiters used or planned to use social media as a recruiting tool, and those who did found a 49% improvement in candidate quality, compared to more traditional recruiting methods. Still, it s important that you act within certain parameters. It may seem like a good idea to search for your candidates on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but you need to ask yourself just how relevant the information will be that you might find, whether it will have any bearing on a candidate s ability to carry out the role, and whether it s entirely ethical. CIPD has released guidance on the subject, and these are some key takeaways that you should take into account:

5 If online searches will be carried out as part of the selection process, you should inform the candidates in advance You should make a distinction between professional and personal social profiles. In essence, LinkedIn is fair game, but a private Facebook profile is not Just like in the real world, you should not discriminate based on any information found online. For example, age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, and political beliefs, should not form part of your decision-making process If your online searches impact your decision about a particular candidate, they should be informed and given the opportunity to respond 4. Address the two key areas social media in the workplace, and social media outside of the office It s wise to have two separate social media policies. One should cover the use of social sites within the workplace, including those who need to use it as part of their roles, and the other should address how employees use social sites in their spare time. The first one will address issues such as roles and responsibilities, what information can be shared and what is confidential, and branding considerations. You might have a certain image that you wish to portray, for example, and this policy would expand further on this point and share clear guidelines and standards. The second looks at the use of social media in the private lives of your employees, and essentially what they can and cannot say about your business online. In certain industries, this will be particularly important. Healthcare professionals, for example, should of course never discuss the details of their patients outside of the formal work setting. We ve all heard about the situations in which employers bring their employers into disrepute on social media sites, and these stories tend to cause a big stir in the media. Remember though that most problems can be avoided by clearly communicating what s acceptable. Remind your workforce that comments that paint the business in a negative light will be taken very seriously, but also make it clear that if they do have an issue with something that they feel the need to air their grievances over, their line manager (or another

6 designated member of staff) should be their first port of call. Sometimes, it could be the case that employees don t quite realise that their updates can be seen publicly. It could be worthwhile running a short training session about this subject, if you feel that it s relevant within your business. 5. Take any roles such as social media manager seriously According to a study by LinkedIn, a huge 81% of small and medium sized businesses are using social media to facilitate the growth of their operations. This includes activities such as regularly updating business pages and profiles, connecting with prospects in the online space, sharing content such as blogs, and running paid advertisements. You d be wise to want to get involved with this, as the benefits can be massive, but it s not something that you should rush into. If you do decide to use social media in this way, you need to carefully consider where you ll find the best talent. It might be a task that you want to give to one of your existing employees, or you might decide that you need to bring in some external help. Before assigning the role, make sure that you fully understand the skillset that it involves. Just because someone is a big Facebook fan outside of the office, it doesn t necessarily mean that they re the best person to manage the accounts at work. Being a high scorer on Candy Crush does not mean that this person knows how to effectively portray your business in the social space! Social media management is a serious role, and needs to be treated as such. Make sure that the appointed social media manager has the appropriate training and knowledge. For example, they should be well versed in how privacy can be managed online, and what information your business can comfortably release into the public forum. An example of this would be photos. It s good practice to include photos in social media updates, but be aware that images taken with mobile phones are almost always subject to geotagging, which quite simply means that anyone can access the information about where exactly they were taken. Think about whether it s appropriate for this to be shared with the general public online. Of course, you can get software that will strip the photo of any data before you share it.

7 6. Recognise the real value of social media, rather than shying away from it Many businesses have made the mistake of taking a zero tolerance approach to social media. They ve banned it from being used in the workplace, and have implemented strict rules about how it s used in the social lives of employees. Whilst this is obviously a questionable approach in terms of ethics, it s important to look at the bigger picture here and consider what the benefit is of a socially savvy workforce. Social media isn t just about playing games and chatting to friends. The networks can be extremely informative, keep users up to date with the latest news and developments from just about every field that exists, and encourage continuous learning. By letting your employees use the platforms in a productive way, you re facilitating a workforce that s engaged in current issues and highly informed. The benefits can have a real impact in the workplace. As such, make sure that your social media policies are forward thinking and don t ban use of networks just for the sake of it. It s important to consider where things could possibly go wrong, but don t let this be the basis of all your decisions. 7. Have an HR expert review your final policy before implementation The level of professional help that you ll have with the creation of your social media policy will depend upon a number of factors, including the amount of time you have available and the resources and expertise that you have access to within your business. You may decide to bring in an HR expert to assist with the entire process, though realities sometimes mean that this isn t entirely possible. If this is the case, bring in help once you have the first draft. Your chosen expert will be able to look at your plans with a fresh pair of eyes, pinpoint any potential problems or things that you may have overlooked, and give you advice when it comes to implementation. Of course, professional expertise doesn t come cheap. But it does give you that extra peace of mind, and it s considerably more affordable than having to deal with a legal case if you do get things wrong. 8. Set your review dates All people policies within your business should be reviewed regularly. It s important to assess whether your processes are still compliant with legislation, and still fit for purpose. Your social media policy is no different, and it s recommended that you put a review date

8 in your diary as soon as it s implemented. Reviewing your policy every six months is a great practice to have. Technology is moving at the speed of light, and what works now will not necessarily meet your needs further down the line. Ask yourself questions such as whether the social media landscape as a whole has developed and evolved, if the policy you implemented actually helped people to carry out their roles to the best of their abilities, whether any legal updates have come into force, and how the policy was received by the employees. Invite feedback and act upon it where it s relevant. Be flexible, be willing to make changes based on the needs of your business, and don t be scared to admit when you might have slightly missed the mark and need to reassess your stance. Dealing with people policies can often be more of an art than an exact science. Final notes Creating a social media policy isn t just a nice to do activity, or something that you might want to consider at some point in the future. It s a current and pressing matter, and if you want to make sure that your business is fully prepared for the implications of operating in the digital age, you need to start taking action at the earliest possible opportunity. Want to have a no-obligation discussion about how we could help you to manage this process, and get it right first time? Pick up the phone today. We d be delighted to take your call and talk you through your options.

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