Don’t think of your social media policy as something you’ll use to police what employees do or say on Facebook and Twitter. Instead, consider that developing a well thought-out policy for your staff will empower them to engage confidently and will ultimately help your brand’s reputation online. The fact is, your employees are active in one social media platform or another (or all of them!) and it is your responsibility to ensure they have clear guidelines to follow, especially when it comes to engaging with or on behalf of your brand. 

You can make your practice’s social media policy as wordy and elaborate or as concise and to-the-point as you like, but the key is to make it your own. There is a general framework to follow and a list of things to consider when crafting your policy, but to truly make it resonate with employees, it should be specific to your business and to the way they interact with your brand. And it’s not just general employees you have to consider. There’s also the social media manager, an employee you’ve entrusted with your brand’s online reputation and the responsibility of engaging with your community.

Employees

I assure you, a 23-year-old marketing whiz is just as likely to commit a major social media faux pas as the 54-year-old doctor getting on Twitter for the first time. And if you are relying on their common sense and not clearly defining what is and isn’t appropriate, you are partially to blame for that eventual blunder. Don’t assume employees understand how different platforms work or how their online behavior affects your brand’s reputation. As this Entrepreneur article suggests, it’s best to take the guesswork out of what is appropriate to post about your company and most importantly, to stress professionalism. Your employees most likely love your brand and would welcome the opportunity to make you look good if you take some pressure off by providing training, establishing guidelines, and identifying the appropriate channels for engaging.

Social Media Manager

Your social media manager is your brand’s voice, so it is of the utmost importance that she or he is crystal clear about your company’s brand standards and expectations. Your reputation is quite literally at risk every single time this person posts on your brand’s behalf. And although I might be overstating that a little bit, it’s a useful point to consider. Mayo Clinic’s 12-Word Social Media Policy makes it fairly simple to comply: Don’t Lie; Don’t Pry; Don’t Cheat, Can’t Delete; Don’t Steal; Don’t Reveal. That about sums it up. And it is especially important to have clear guidelines in place when the fit hits the shan, so I recommend having a crisis plan that outlines how to handle crisis communications via social media channels.

Community

And finally, your community is the whole reason you are using social media in the first place. You want to engage with them and you hope and pray they engage back. But again, establishing some basic guidelines around what is OK to say on your page and what isn’t will keep them from guessing and will help keep the conversation productive and positive. This isn’t quite as good as Mayo Clinic’s 12-word policy, but I do have a 4-word version of my own: Don’t be a jerk. Most people follow that rule, and that’s what makes our community so awesome and fun to engage with. But on the rare occasion that people don’t comply, we do step in to remove an offensive, hateful, disrespectful, or otherwise inappropriate comment. And if there’s ever any doubt about what constitutes an inappropriate comment, we just check back with our detailed social media posting guidelines.

Your employees and online community can be your brand’s strongest advocates, especially if you empower them with the knowledge of how different platforms work, understanding of how their engagement affects the brand image, and clear guidelines around what is and what is not appropriate.

I hope this post inspires you to revisit your social media policy, because that’s definitely what I’ll be doing next! Any tips? Let me know what’s worked or not worked for you in the past by posting in the comments below.