It is high time businesses begin to see just how important a proper social media code of ethics is even if they don’t have social media pages. According to Cliff Lampe and Nicole B. Ellison (2016), while 51% of Americans state their workplace has rules regarding the use of social media while working, 63% say their employer has no policies about how they present themselves online in general. Any sort of mishap can have major repercussions that can tarnish the business’s reputation, and cleaning up after these crises is especially difficult given how easy it is to capture a screenshot of such an incident. Just as employees are encouraged to act responsibly in public off work, organizations, especially those with social media pages, have a crucial task in employing social media policies so that their members can follow a set guideline in acting responsibly in the online world as well.
According to Jesse Bouman (2020), having a social media policy in place is important because it can achieve three things: set expectations clearly (reduce confusion), protect brand reputation, and increase employee advocacy. Bouman (2020) argues that a social media policy not only focuses on making sure your organization’s members don’t mess up, but also encourages them to be more active and involved with social media.
Here is a simple, not too long, and easy to follow proposal for a social media policy which incorporates both the usage and sharing of the organization’s social media platforms as well as employees using their own social media:
- Use Common Sense: This includes thinking before you post or comment. Take a few seconds to think about and analyze what you’re about to post. Is it defamatory? Is it insensitive? Mind the caption and not just the content. Don’t think you’re safe if it’s only a comment, as thousands or even millions of people can see what you posted in a second or two. Nothing is deleted from the Internet, so always be extremely careful: what you say is permanent.
- Be Nice, be Professional, and be Responsible: Always remain conscious when mixing personal and professional lives. Treat everyone with respect and with kindness, and take that to the top when using the company social media. Absolutely no discrimination based on any aspect will be tolerated, and we expect you and everyone on the team to adhere to this. If you’re using company social media and you see a hateful comment or post, we fully expect you to respectfully address such comments. What people say may have consequences and they are not exempt from them regardless of them bringing up First Amendment rights.
- Be Transparent, Honest, and Disclose: Be transparent when referring to your audience, whether it’s through our brand or your personal social media. Information should be readily available to the public and readers for posts and comments. Use the appropriate # when posting about the company or its products and services in order to disclose your affiliation with the company, disclose your relationship if you are being compensated to promote or endorse us, and stick to your area of expertise: don’t write about what you don’t know. If discussing the company on any platform, add a disclaimer such as “This is my opinion”.
- Stray from misleading or false information: Never publish anything that isn’t true or official, as it could be misleading. Everything must be approved beforehand. Review with the social media team what is and what isn’t allowed to be posted. Careful with sharing misleading or click-bait articles when using your personal social media.
- Protect information: Keep company confidential information confidential always. You are expected to safeguard company information when using social media, be it personal or for the company. Never post any confidential information on any social media platform. If the information is planned to go public but is yet to be officially released by the company, do not discuss it. This can be financial, product, service, or legal information.
- Know your Role: A social media crisis can come when we least expect it. It is important for you to know your role and your responsibilities on a daily, weekly, and as-needed basis. Be it customer service, planning, advertising, security, monitoring and listening, or engagement, knowing your role and having everyone know each other’s role will prove vital in communication efforts, especially during a crisis.
Coming up with a social media policy is crucial in managing the risk of a potential social media crisis. Many of these can be avoided via an effective and thorough social media policy all employees are familiar with (Harris, 2020). Defining what constitutes a crisis is also helpful in knowing whether or not your organization needs to deploy your crisis team. Negative comments don’t always make for a crisis, as they can be addressed individually through direct communication (Harris, 2020). Adding a discount or special promo to these responses helps. Be sure to avoid arguing and respond kindly, constructively, and attentively in order to best help the customer.
Whenever a crisis ensues, be sure to pause any incoming scheduled posts as this showcases disregard for the crisis and the reaction from customers and other users who are able to see the crisis in question. A public statement which effectively communicates and identifies the key message regarding the incident while also demonstrating the company’s core values is essential, but many companies go above and beyond and follow up by enacting new programs and policies, and organizing teams relevant to the nature of the crisis in order to showcase their commitment to growing as an organization after the crisis, and to learning from such an incident for the better.
Lampe, C., & Ellison, N. B. (2016, June 22). Social media and the workplace. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/06/22/social-media-and-the-workplace/
Bouman, J. (2020, December 22). Need social media policy examples? Here are 7 terrific social policies to inspire yours. EveryoneSocial. https://everyonesocial.com/blog/need-sample-social-media-policies-here-are-7-to-inspire-yours/
Harris, A. (2020, May 7). A social media crisis checklist for 2020. PR News. https://www.prnewsonline.com/social-media-crisis-tips-2020