Fresh eyes

Why a social media policy is vital

Why a social media policy is vital

Written by Emma Rawlinson,
at Freshfield

The importance of having an effective social media policy is underlined by the recent case of teenage ‘crime-tsar’ Paris Brown – forced to resign after tweeting racist and anti-gay remarks.

Paris Brown, 17, lost her job as Britain’s first youth police and crime commissioner (PCC) after posting offensive comments on Twitter from the ages of 14 to 16.

She had been appointed to the £15,000-a-year post by Kent PCC Ann Barnes, who admitted the teenager’s tweets and Facebook page had not been vetted when she was offered the job.

The potentially alarming effects of casual conversation

In an age when anyone can post anything they like, whenever the whim takes them, a social media policy has never been more vital to protect your business.

Part of the problem is that social media is regarded as a channel for chit-chat and banter by individuals who, understandably, aren’t aware of constraints such as libel, anti-discrimination and intellectual property law.

Your social media policies should reflect your business goals

Creating a social media policy will safeguard your organisation from the consequences of an online gaffe by establishing standards for behaviour, helping prevent a PR crisis, and giving you legal recourse against employee actions.

There are many types of social media policy, but the key factors to keep in mind when drawing one up are your business activities, your corporate values, and the group of people who will be using the policy.

What every policy should contain

This means some policies are legally drafted documents and others are straightforward, common-sense guidelines. But whatever form a social media policy takes, it should take account of four basic requirements:

1. Use of social media is not just about what your people do at work – they are representatives of your organisation 24/7 and must consider the consequences of their social media use. A social media policy should provide guidelines for those using social media to promote the business while also advising on privacy settings for personal accounts.

2. Some things are flatly unacceptable – such as racist, sexist, and offensive comments.

3. A corporate sign-off should be available for people speaking on behalf of your business so anyone reading their output will realise it is the official voice of your organisation.

4. Help and support should be given to your people – all too many problems are caused through ignorance, so consider social media awareness training, or at least draw up a readily available set of guidelines.

Prevention is better than cure

A final tip for any organisation is to do your social media research first. The Paris Brown case should have been prevented from happening in the first place. With a little more vigilance, a great deal of damage, cost and embarrassment could have been avoided.

To discover how we can help you to create an effective social media policy, contact us.

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