The rise in popularity of social media tools has created a need for institutions to address the use of the Internet by their employees. However, the creation of such policies can be difficult and overwhelming. More and more of my clients have been requesting my services to form their Social Media Policy. Regardless of your industry, your employees, clients and competitors are all talking about you online. While you may not be able to control some of their public posts, you should be sure to clearly outline rules and regulations where possible. With the introduction of email, companies were forced to create privacy policies and regulations to maintain limited control over the new communication tool. Similarly, social media tools and networks now allow for instantaneous, mass and public communication to millions of listeners – the threat is that much greater. The time to draft your social media policy is now.
The Internet provides its users with some free instruments to aid in crafting such policies (i.e. Policy Tool). However, these generic legal documents are not optimized for any organization’s specific needs. Take, for example, a high school. Everyone from the principal to the teachers to the students are involved with multiple social media networks. The policy must address each group separately:
- Principal: The principal of a high school is the voice of the institution. He or she must always be held to the highest standard and be presented in a professional manner. All private emails and messages, as well as public posts of any kind should maintain a consistent tone and message – one that depicts the school in the best light.
- Teachers: The policy must clearly state rules for all faculty and staff to adhere to. Can individuals affiliate their personal profiles with their place of employment? Must they abide by the organization’s rules when participating in the online world on their own behalf? Should they clearly state that the posts published on a personal blog, website or profile are their own, and are not associated with their employer? In addition, are teachers allowed to accept and/or send “Friend” requests to current or past students? All of these concerns must be addressed in a school’s social media policy.
- Students: In the past, high school students were closely monitored while on campus. However, new regulations have extended the monitoring of students far beyond the walls of the school. The media has covered many stories involving students’ social media over-shares that have resulted in disciplinary action. Do school officials have the right to punish students for their activities while on personal time at a home computer?
There are endless questions to be addressed when crafting a social media policy. A few additional thoughts to pay particularly close attention to include: – Can employees participate in social media during company time? – Can teachers use these tools as educational aids? Are you still not sure if your organization needs a Social Media Policy? Check out Policy Tool’s free social media tool and answer their 15 simple questions. The result will shock you…