A Central Ohio police officer was recently fired because of racially-charged posts on her personal Facebook page. From what I understand, the police department didn’t have a social media policy. Like many companies and organizations, they had a Code of Conduct, but it didn’t provide specific social media guidelines.
As I explained to our local media covering this story, while we’d like to believe that we’re only hiring people with good judgement, social media creates a false sense of security that all too often results in individuals posting things online that they’d never say in a public forum. Organizations that assume a standard Code of Conduct — or even common sense — provides enough guidance for employees’ personal social media channels are inviting a problem. Not only can the lack of a policy create confusion for employees, it also makes personnel discipline (e.g., probation, termination, etc.) more complicated.
Is your social media policy clear enough? Try asking these questions:
- Does it clearly articulate what is and isn’t acceptable?
- Has it been updated recently? If not, you probably don’t have a clearly defined policy around Periscope and other live-casting platforms, which need to be included.
- Does it specifically explain when and how someone should disengage from a conversation if it becomes heated or broaches a subject that the employee isn’t permitted to comment on?
- Is the notification hierarchy clear? Meaning, if someone spots “bad behavior” on a colleague’s personal social channels, do they know who to contact about it?
- Does the policy clearly articulate when/if/how employees can create channels on social networks? For example, what if someone wanted to create a private Facebook group for current employees? Is that allowed? Don’t assume people know the answer.
- Is the photo/video policy clear? Can employees post photos from inside your location? What if other employees or customers are visible in the shot?
- Does the policy clarify if/when it’s appropriate for employees to discuss competitors on social media?
- If employees are attending an event together, participating in a company-sponsored function, or volunteering for a nonprofit, are they encouraged to take photos and video that can be shared on social (external or internal) channels?
- If — heaven forbid — your company finds itself in a lawsuit or other crisis situation, do employees understand that they aren’t to address those issues online?
- If employees are contacted by media through their personal social channels, do they know how to engage your company’s media relations team?
Need help auditing and updating your social media policy? I can help! Email me: heather [at] gebencomm.com.