Social media is a divisive subject. On the one hand, it can help a business build an online presence, increasing awareness and profitability. On the other, it can expose a business to risks, potentially causing legal, financial and reputational harm.
So how do you ensure social media benefits your business, rather than hinders it? The answer is a social media policy.

Social media policies at work
All businesses should have a social media policy. Even if your business does not use social media, it is likely that your employees have personal accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter or Instagram. Their private activity can have an impact on your business – sometimes for the worse.
You cannot stop your staff from using social media, no matter how much you might wish it. In any event, social might be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Therefore, the best thing you can do is control the way it interacts with the business. This can be achieved with a social media policy.

5 reasons to have a social media policy
Here’s five very good reasons to have a social media policy in the workplace –

1. To provide clarity
A well-written social media policy provides clarity for employers and employees alike. Otherwise, you have no set boundaries. If your employees do not know what the parameters are, and they overstep the mark, they cannot be blamed. After all, they have no clear guidelines as to what is expected of them.
When an employee joins the company, give them a handbook that outlines what is, and is not, acceptable in terms of social media use.
The policy can set out when social media can be used in the workplace, be it for business or private use. It can detail what is not permitted – such as slanderous comments. It can also request certain caveats. For example, employees might be allowed to share personal opinions, but only with a disclaimer that the views expressed do not represent those of the company.

2. To control your reputation
If you do not lay any ground rules, then you have no control over what your employees are saying on social media. This is extremely scary. An aggrieved employee could bad-mouth the company. Even a well-meaning employee could unwittingly post something damaging, be it a poorly thought-out comment or derogatory slur.
Employees are representatives of your business. So, when they share a post on social media, the public will associate it with your brand.
Evidently, this can be hugely detrimental. You will know that a reputation takes years to build, but seconds to destroy. A social media policy can help you protect your position, as it allows you to better control your employees’ output on social media channels. This ensures your business is not brought into disrepute.

3. To protect confidential information
There are many legal risks associated with social media, one of which is that confidential information will be shared with the public. For example, the personal details of clients or customers could be accidentally published. Or undisclosed businesses deals could be leaked. Information about new products could also be revealed.
The disclosure of confidential information could land your business in serious trouble, potentially resulting in legal action and the loss of business.
These issues can be prevented with a social media policy. You simply need to outline what is confidential within the business – and explicitly state that anything confidential should not be written about online.

4. To stop cyber bullying
Cyber bullying is a growing problem in the workplace. Sadly, some employees are targeting their colleagues online, using social media networks to bully and harass them. Of course, this is upsetting. But as an employer, there are also legal implications that you need to be aware of. This is because an employer has a duty to prevent bullying at work – including cyber bullying.
A social media policy can define cyber bulling and ban it in your workplace. It can also detail what will happen, should an employee be suspected of cyber bullying. As an employer, this allows you to fulfil your legal obligations towards your employees. Otherwise, you could be found negligent.

5. To define disciplinary procedures
Should an employee breach your social media policy, you may want the option of bringing disciplinary action. If so, you should also set out disciplinary procedures in the handbook. That way, everyone knows what will happen, if they do not adhere to the rules. This makes employees accountable for their actions.

Asking a solicitor to review your social media policy
As the reasons listed above demonstrate, a social media policy is vitally important to your business. Because it is a legal document, you should ask a solicitor to review it. This ensures the policy works in favour of your business, rather than against it.

Altion Law can assist parties who require assistance with drafting a social media policy. If you would like to have a confidential discussion with a member of our team, if you complete our contact us form, we will call you back at a time that is suitable for you or you can contact us directly on 01908 414990.