In less than a decade, social media has become a main stage for businesses around the globe. It is no longer enough just to have a professional website; companies now must have their own social media pages, a social media marketing team, and a clearly written content calendar developed to track posting times and locations to promote their brand and maintain ongoing engagement with customers.

Now that social media has become an essential business tool, it has blurred the lines between professional and personal posting. Millions of people are on their social pages everyday, posting images and text about daily moments. But what  could be seen as a harmless personal update, could have unintentional negative effects on the company brand.

As social media continues to dominate private and corporate life, company owners must develop policies regarding online posting to protect their reputation from adverse messages. While most businesses have put protocols in place, many still lack the clear guidelines for their staff.

If you are in the process of developing or updating your company’s social media policies,  consult with a legal advisor first to help you develop clear, professional policies. Your policies should include:

1. Clear Expectations

The expectations of your staff should be clearly written. It is important that your policy outline exactly what is considered acceptable and what is not allowable when adding comments or pictures to both company and personal social pages. Employees need to have a clear understanding how even their private comments can impact the company and the consequences that can follow.

2. Protecting Your Company’s Image

Your public image and reputation as a business is critical to your success. When adding anything online a good rule for all staff to follow is that only comments they would feel comfortable seeing on the front page of a major newspaper should be posted.

If you don’t want to see it published elsewhere, it should not be uploaded onto a private or company social site. All posting should show the company in a positive manner and meet the approval of the management and policy makers.

3. Privacy Act

Companies have information about their operations, finances, clients, staff, and  numerous internal and external data that is confidential and should never be shared with others not associated with the company.

To protect the privacy and confidentiality of your organizational operations, your policy should include a section that details information that is considered private and confidential. The content should also explain your employee’s obligations and expectations in maintaining company confidentiality in all communication sources, especially online.

4. Do’s and Don’ts of Posting

Documenting what employees cannot do is just as important as what they can do. While your policy should detail all the restrictions and expectations of posting on social media, it should also openly discuss what staff can post online. This will help set proper parameters that give the working crew direction with writing posts that showcase the company in a positive tone.

5. Legal Rights and Responsibilities

Staff should be knowledgeable of what their rights and responsibilities of posting about their work and company from a legal perspective. Provincial and national laws should be included in your policy so your staff know what their rights and responsibilities are from a legal perspective. If you are unclear about the legal requirements, you should hire an employment lawyer for a more comprehensive assessment.

Social media is just as important professionally as it is personally. To help eliminate the risk of defamatory content being shared on professional and personal social media sites, businesses need to develop a policy the outlines what staff can and cannot do when posting on corporate or private online community sites.

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