There are a number of posts that offer helpful advice on how to write a social media policy and what should be included in the policy. If you are looking for information on considerations when writing a policy or how to write a policy you can find plenty of information here and here. There is also a great database of social media policies where you can review other organization’s guidelines and policies as you work through building your own.
If you have already formalized your policy and communicated it to your employees you may have realized the policy alone is not enough. Employees may have read the guidelines but do they understand what the policy says enough to put into practice and remember to apply the guidelines when they participate online. To truly mitigate risk you need a policy and a plan to train, coach and the ability apply consequences should employees break the rules. If all you do is communicate a policy and fail to follow-through with the next three components, you will find that your policy will fail to meet your goal to alleviate risks in social media.
Find a way to put your policy into practice by offering employees training and resources. How you go about training employees will depend on the size of your organization and your budget, but no matter what your training should:
- Give concrete examples that compel the employee to truly understand the key points of your social media policy. And, if possible test their knowledge through a quiz.
- Aim to show that they are accountable for their actions online just as much as they are with them offline. Employees need to understand the potential impact their behavior online can have on them and the company.
- Provide best practices for participating in social media and provide “what-ifs”; such as “what if I mess up?” and “What if someone asks a question I can’t answer related to the company?” This can be done both within training and within resources you provide your employees. If you have internal collaboration tools consider creating a community where they can share with each other.
Don’t stop at training. As the social media evangelists in your organization consider coaching employees to help them reach their goals and ultimately the goals of the organization. Coaching is an ongoing process, and focuses on the strengthening skills of the employees. In order to coach employees you will need to identify those with a need for coaching, or an interest in improving their social media proficiency. You can identify coaching opportunities by:
- Monitor employee accounts for compliance to the guidelines. Where you find errors or non-compliance these are opportunities for coaching.
- Offering employees the chance to become social media ambassadors for your organization by creating a formal employee advocacy program. Employees who opt-in for this program will be passionate and looking to enhance their social media prowess.
The point of having a social media policy is not to scare employees from participating in social channels but employees need to understand that there are consequences if they violate the policy. All breaches of the policy are not equal, so determine when you will coach an employee and when you will contact their manager and/or HR to carry out any necessary performance discussions. While every situation will be different it is important to identify upfront what you will do and who will be contacted and accountable. Consider doing the following:
- Create a severity matrix to help your staff determine whether the employee error is a coaching opportunity or if it should be brought to the attention of the manager or HR.
- Define what will happen if an employee continually makes mistakes despite coaching.
- Discussing with HR, Legal and other stakeholders what can be lawfully enforced and how it aligns to similar enforcement of other policies – e.g Business Code of Conduct.
What other practices have you put in place that have worked to empower your employees and mitigate risk?