The boom of social media in recent years has meant that nearly everyone nowadays is involved with it in some sense. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok … the list goes on. Employees are likely to be spending time on social media even during work hours and while in the office, and for some, social media is their work.
However, the lines between professionalism and the authentic self can really blur on social media, especially when care isn’t taken. Tensions can run high, composure can go out the window, mistakes can be made.
So let’s talk about social media etiquette for employees, some of the best ways to go about implementing guidelines and making them well-known, and some best practices.
The most important elements of employee social media etiquette
Social media can serve as a branding tool, so if employees post about their coworkers, boss, or workplace, then they need to be careful about how they do so.
The most important thing to do is develop a social media policy so that employees are aware of how they should conduct themselves online. A social media policy is a document that details how the company and its employees should use social media. It protects both employees’ individual reputations as well as the company’s.
This policy will serve as the foundation of all employee social media etiquette, so it has to be thorough, clear, concise, and cover a lot of ground. At the same time, it can’t be invasive, rude, overbearing, or dictate their personal lives. It’s a fine line.
Here are some of the most important things to include when creating your social media policy.
1. Nothing is ever really private
No matter whether employees are posting or interacting with others on their personal or work socials, nothing is ever truly private. This means that they must be made explicitly aware that whatever they post may make its way into the wrong hands and land them in trouble.
2. Be clear
Whatever policies you create, make sure that you are clear exactly what they apply to and in what cases they are relevant. There may be certain guidelines specific to personal accounts or work accounts, solely intended for a certain platform, or for specific employees. Be very clear in your wording and check employees’ understanding after.
3. Cover all channels
There are a lot of social media platforms out there and they all function differently. Make sure that your policy covers all bases and that you take as much care as possible to not leave any loopholes.
4. Familiarize yourself with different social media websites
You can’t create a quality policy without knowing the ins and outs of all of the different social media websites. You might need to learn or be taught by someone, but it’s crucial that you understand how these sites work as they can vary greatly in terms such as function, purpose, and demographic.
5. Employees should be authentic
Social networks are meant for connecting and sharing with others. Employees shouldn’t be forced to promote their company unless they want to. Similarly, if employees are on work socials, they should be interacting with others genuinely and not using the same responses to others in a boring, generic way.
6. Direct complaints to the right place
Employees are entitled to feel how they feel but they should, however, keep rants, complaints, and negative comments about their company to a minimum because that can often backfire and land them in hot water.
Ranting is best done in private to a friend and real problems should be brought up with HR or a manager.
7. Be clear on what to avoid posting
As a general rule of thumb, employees should avoid posting anything:
- From a suspicious source
On their work profiles.
Knowing that there are repercussions for breaking company policy is all well and good, but what exactly will these repercussions be? It should be made clear to employees what may happen if they know the rules and then proceed to break them.
If they have contempt for the company and can’t sort out their problems with HR, a manager, or by speaking to their coworkers, there may have to be some serious measures taken.
Knowing what repercussions await certain behaviors helps to manage expectations and concrete references for all parties involved to visit.
Best practices for ensuring that social media etiquette is well-known
Having the world’s most airtight policy won’t help you at all unless your employees know it and know it well. This is best done by:
- Informing employees up front about the policy
- Providing regular reminders about the policy
- Asking for feedback on the policy, not only to gain that feedback but also to check employee’s understanding of the policy
- Asking employees to review the policy
- Providing training if required
- Requesting employees to sign off on the policy after having read it. A copy of their sign-off can be placed in their personnel file as proof that they have “read the terms and conditions”.
Changing as times do
It’s vital to remember that employee social media etiquette is only a part of social media policy. The policy should be an extensive document that lives and breathes, changing as times do. Social media in many ways reflects the shifting sands of real life, and so patterns of communication, styles of speech, and what is considered appropriate will continue to evolve as time goes by.
Therefore, it’s key that etiquette responds to these changes accordingly and keeps employees and the company’s images safe.