Essential Employee Social Media Guidelines and Why You Need Them
All you need to know about employee social media guidelines is explained clearly and concisely. What they are, why you need them, the difference between social media guidelines and policy, and a list of some essential guidelines for you to work out and share with your employees.
What are employee social media guidelines?
Let’s start from the beginning: there is an important difference between employee social media guidelines and a social media policy for employees. While a social media policy for employees is a much broader document regarding how employees should act and behave on social media on behalf of the company, including policies intended to protect a brand from legal risk and maintain its reputation on social media, employee social media guidelines are more general and instructive suggestions – some dos and don’ts.
To put it another way, employee social media guidelines are best practices to encourage fair and respectful behavior on social media and ensure that employees aren’t putting the company in a bad light, adopting inappropriate behaviors, etc. At the same time, they also give those less skilled on social media a clear set of instructions on how to try their hand at it.
Why you need employee social media guidelines
Guidelines for social media should clearly outline how to behave on social media in a way that’s positive and healthy for the company, employees, and customers alike. Employee social media guidelines may include etiquette tips, helpful tools, links to essential resources, best practices for interacting with others on social media, improving their profiles and posts, etc.
The reason why you may want to release such guidelines for your workforce to read and appropriate is simple (and you may have already drawn the same conclusion here). Every single employee is a potential online brand ambassador – namely, someone who is representing and advocating for your brand every time they log into their social media accounts. Sharing social media guidelines with your employees is your chance to provide the whole team with tools to empower them to advocate for you correctly.
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People say there is no such thing as bad press, but the truth is that there is. There's a thin line between personal and professional boundaries when engaging on social media. So, installing precise and unambiguous guidelines is a safe way to protect your company and the people you work with.
You don’t want anyone (even unintentionally) showing destructive behaviors online and claiming a connection to your company, especially when that someone is a proclaimed brand ambassador.
Instead, you want your employees to handle themselves respectfully and inclusively and to be comfortable communicating with other connections and organizations on social media in a way that matters.
How to create employee social media guidelines
One of the best tips anyone can give you about writing guidelines for online behavior is to make policies that reflect your company culture.
Social media policies should meet business needs and be aligned with other processes, of course, but ultimately, people want to feel connected with the company they work for, and social media is often an expression of that connection. When your social media policies reflect the organizational culture, it will be much easier and natural for your employees to adopt them, see themselves in them, and respect them because those behaviors will already be engraved in their work lives.
At the same time, you should also remember that having employees interacting online on behalf of your company means that they will act as ambassadors, whether they’re trained for it or not. It might sound selfish, but since employees will be crowding social media platforms anyway, you might as well empower them to do so professionally – by launching an employee advocacy program, for example – and instruct them with your guidelines in the process.
7 essential social media guidelines to share with employees
- Keep private and professional life separate. You might argue that there is no such thing as a personal life on social media anymore, which is partly true, but there is also something called common sense. If something an employee does or has done in their personal life could jeopardize their relationship with you, the employer, or the credibility of their personal brand, they shouldn’t post it on social media.
- Be aware of competitors’ content. It might seem obvious, but something to keep an eye out for: employees should avoid sharing competitors’ content, as this can undermine the business's brand reputation. Instead, competitor insights should be kept internal.
- Privacy. It never hurts to remind your team that confidential company information is confidential off the clock, too. Whether private info about coworkers, financial disclosures, upcoming products, private communications, research and development intel, etc. This should never be shared on public social media platforms.
- Stick to the facts. Warn employees about getting pulled into negative discussions or arguments on social media. Sticking to facts puts you in a neutral position and helps to build trust while at the same time being a booster for the employee’s personal brand. It’s also a good idea to research posts to ensure accuracy before sharing any kind of information.
- Be yourself. Encourage employees to talk in the first person on social media and be themselves – with their passions, interests, spontaneity, and all. Adding their own voices to social channels increases trust within your network and makes it clear that you’re a real person with real interests and ideas who actually believes in what they are promoting and talking about.
- Follow the company pages. This, again, might seem like an obvious guideline, but because it’s so obvious, employees often don’t think about it. So make sure to encourage them to follow your branded social channels. It is a great place for the less confident employees to start engaging in content that is ‘safe’.
- Always be inclusive. It’s important for every employer and brand to promote inclusivity on and off social media. More detailed guidelines could include, for example, using inclusive pronouns (they/them/theirs), providing descriptive captions for images, not making assumptions about gender, race, experience, or ability, avoiding gender or race-specific emojis, and reporting and removing any comments deemed sexist, racist, ableist, ageist, homophobic, or hateful to any group or person.
Employee social media guidelines are a crucial tool at your disposal to empower your employees to engage positively on social media when using their personal social accounts and educate them on best practices and usage.
Your employees are an essential part of how you distribute your company’s social media strategy, so anything you do in this regard will help you ensure your employees are amplifying your brand in the best way possible and adding to your business. A lack of social media guidelines can also prevent you from benefiting from employee content and the proven results delivered by a fully functioning employee advocacy program.