Filter by/
Region/  All
Type/  All
Sorted By/  Most Recent

Why you and your business need to have a social media policy

By / / In Best practice /
There have been plenty of cases where vexed staff have criticised employers on social media – but what can companies do to prevent ‘brand-bashing’? Award-winning author Luan Wise says the key is in setting up an effective social media policy – here’s her strategy on limiting potential damage.
social media policy

Despite the many positive vibes about social media, it is important to note that there are some risks involved. ‘Getting it wrong’ prevents many people from using social media. The ease of posting means that sometimes things get posted in the heat of the moment, when perhaps they shouldn’t. All of these can be overcome with a social media policy.

Social media and the law

Legally, conversations on social media are no different to any other conversation. As yet, there is no specific legislation related to social media use.

In the business world, there have been cases of employees criticising their colleagues or employers online, leaking confidential information and/or undermining their own professional credibility by sharing personal views that are not compatible with their professional role. HMV’s live stream on Twitter while people were getting fired is now infamous (check The Guardian article, here).

There is, therefore, a clear need to create guidelines, provide training and send out regular updates to all employees in an organisation, to remind them what is appropriate online behaviour – and what is not.

Problems that can occur online include defamation, discrimination, obscenity, harassment, data protection issues, trade descriptions issues, IP rights, brand reputation and the confidentiality of sensitive business information. These are, of course, issues not unique to the use of social media.

For individuals, it’s good to have your own set of guidelines, too. Personal brands are as important now as corporate ones. For example, as a business owner, I ensure that my social media content is always positive and I stick to subject areas I truly know about.

Setting guidelines

In whatever context social media is being used, all users of social media should review the ‘terms of use’ when setting up accounts and regularly check privacy settings so they know what information they are sharing and with whom.

Within a business, a social media policy should be in place to provide guidelines for employees representing an organisation on social media, and also for those using personal profiles in a way that might affect the business.

A social media policy might be part of an existing internet use policy, and it might also reference other policies such as equal opportunities and anti-harassment.

Staff need to know exactly what their social media roles and responsibilities are, and be empowered to make their own choices about how to act or respond –while keeping your brand safe. Due to the real-time nature of social media, it is too restrictive to fully script all social media activity. This is not a website or printed brochure that takes several weeks to prepare and needs the input of many individuals.

A business can reap huge rewards by engaging the social media presence of employees, particularly on LinkedIn, and a social media policy can help that happen.

Where should you start?

By taking a common sense approach, focusing on the positives and reminding employees of possible consequences.

Everyone in an organisation, no matter its size, needs to understand what information counts as personal information and how to avoid using it in a public space.

A social media policy should make clear what is confidential information and set out what it regards as acceptable behaviour – and what is unacceptable. It should give examples of best practice content and guidelines for tone of voice.

I find that an internal workshop to develop guidelines works well. Look at what other organisations and professionals are posting – both within and outside of your industry and consider what your own set of ‘dos and don’ts’ needs to include.

It is always a good idea to get a lawyer to check your social media policy to ensure your business is adequately protected from liability. All staff should be asked to read the policy (and sign a document to that end) when it is introduced; it should also be part of the induction process for new staff.

Lunch and learn sessions are great for this. The training does not need to be formal and can be separated from ‘how to’ style training. Time out, in a room, to discuss social media is insightful for all involved – it provides a place to raise any fears, concerns and overcomes any nervousness about using social media for the benefit of the business.

Check also if your industry has any guidelines in place, for example the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has guidelines for social media and customer communications.

Having a clear policy is just one part of ensuring effective use of social media. Ongoing guidance, support and feedback is required to make the most of this powerful communications channel.

What should a social media policy include?

Having a social media policy provides both employers and employees with a supporting framework, providing support to employees using social media and for organisations in making decisions should things go wrong. It is an employer’s responsibility to make their policy on social media known to employees.

Guidelines are also likely to be set around:

  • use of images
  • target response times to queries
  • working hours/out-of-hours activity
  • negative comments about company or staff
  • comments that might be considered offensive (on race, gender, religion, etc)
  • handling, recording and reporting inappropriate content
  • how/where to obtain further information or advice
  • the consequences of breaching social media policy and how the disciplinary process will operate.

For examples of social media policy, the Social Media Governance Policy Database is a great resource.

Have an opinion on this article? Please join in the discussion: the GMA is a community of data driven marketers and YOUR opinion counts.

Read also:

How to reach and engage older consumers with social media

Empathy, advocacy and social media: the importance of listening

Luan Wise
Author: Luan Wise
Chartered Marketer, Author, LinkedIn Learning Instructor |

Luan Wise’ award-winning book, ‘Relax! It’s Only Social Media’ is available from Amazon, and the companion 2018 social media planner – a step-by-step guide to developing a social media plan – is available from her website: Luan Wise is a chartered marketer with more than 15 years’ experience. In 2009, Wise discovered social media and hasn’t put her smartphone down since. She was recognised as one of the top five female marketers in the UK for the #LinkedInBestConnected social campaign in 2015. Subsequently, she was signed up to write and deliver content for LinkedIn’s online learning platform, Her engaging tutorials have been viewed more than 140,000 times and new courses will be released in early 2018. To provide talks, training and one-to-one support for businesses, contact her on (0)1242 420597 or email

Leave your thoughts

Related reading

  • Keep up to date with global best practice in data driven marketing

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.