Trust Me, You Need a Social Policy

As the presence of social media steadily grows, companies are shaping their workforce social media policies. HR professionals were asked to list their most problematic policies in this 2013 HR Policies: Practices & Changes survey, and social media policies led the way at 41.7%.

  • Some are lax, asking employees to merely use their common sense when posting online. Zappos prefers this method, following their personal responsibility work culture tone.
  • Others are stringent, full of a thousand different things that they are strictly forbidden to post. BBC’s ten-page policy gets pretty specific.
  • While other employees prefer to encourage their employees to post and participate along loose guidelines.
Trust Me, You Need a Social Policy

 We’ve seen what can happen when rogue employees take the social reigns. Serious damage can be done to the company’s image when employees aren’t given guidelines or repercussions for negative posts. One of the more popular instances of this happening occurred when a St. Louis Applebee’s waitress lost her job for posting a picture of  a receipt online that had a ridiculous customer note on it. A virtual meltdown ensued, and you can read the step step of the case here

On the other hand, a lot of companies like Marriott are embracing social and encouraging their employees to become brand ambassadors online. You can check out some highlights of their campaign here. The company’s social media policy along with the culture, will dictate which side of the fence they land on: censored and secure, or encouraged and taking a chance.

Not Everyone Has Common Sense

This might sound harsh, but boy is it true. We’ve all worked with bright, capable people who always manage to get the job done with a a smile, but in other realms of their life, don’t seem to have a lick of sense. Not everyone is out to tear the company down, but well meaning employees who don’t know how to use social or don’t know how to use it appropriately, need to be given guidelines. A post on social media policies from HR pro Paul Chaney says, “Not everyone uses professionalism or common sense in their social media interactions. Spend a little time reading some people’s Facebook posts and it won’t take long to realize that quite the opposite is true.”

Protection First

On this blog we talk a lot about brand building, it’s not easy, it takes time and resources. There are a lot of examples out there of scorned employees putting a serious dent in the company employer brand via a social uprising. Social media policies should be put in place to first protect the company and its brand. It should be very clear what is acceptable and what isn’t. Some companies ban their employees from sharing any information about their company. While there is strong case for keeping companies safe in this manner, an employer brand is best built with the help of, well…employees.

Facilitating Brand Advocacy Second

While security for the brand should come first, your policy shouldn’t just be full of “don’ts”. The policy should clearly define what is not acceptable, but it should also define what is encouraged. Encouraging employees to share and engage vis social media puts the company in a positive light, strengthens social relationships in the workplace and creates brand ambassadors.

You’re Not Zappos, but You’re Getting Close

Zappos is one of this companies for which a loose, common sense policy works. This works for them for several reasons. Zappos’ hiring process, company culture and employer brand are so strategic that their employees seem to be on autopilot for building the brand. They have created a foundation of employees and structure that lend to a fantastic social presence. We can’t all be Zappos but a strong, yet welcoming social media policy will get us closer.

Social media is no longer just a way to “stay in touch”. Social media has become a deeply ingrained part of our everyday lives. By 2020 it is projected that 46% of all U.S. workers will be Millenials, and social media is extremely important to them. 64% of them ask about social media policies during job interviews and 24% of those say that it would be a key factor in accepting a job offer. Employees are going to post, they need guidelines to both keep the brand safe, and grow it at the same time.

photo credit:
Anderson Mancini via