Social media is by its very definition “social.” An effective strategy includes interacting with others, and the more individuals you have connecting with your business and sharing your content the better.  If you are actively promoting your business online, it is a good idea to have a social media policy for your employees.

Establishing a social media presence is critical for every small business and having employees help with the implementation of your strategy can be beneficial. How you choose to include your staff in your online efforts should be a well thought out and very clear plan. As the business owner you need to communicate with your employees the important role they may take in the social media effort while being clear on acceptable behavior while representing your business, even in their personal online spaces. When done correctly your employees can expand the reach of your social media efforts, adding value to the customer/client experience, and have a direct impact on your bottom line.

As with any other aspect of your business, having a social media policy is prudent. If you have already established a culture of respect and responsibility the general guidelines for how employees are to represent your business will only be a formality.

How do I establish a social media policy for employees?

As you start to establish a comprehensive online presence for the business your employees will start buzzing about the new initiative. Involve them early in that process asking for their input on what to share and who to connect with on all platforms. Then, during your regular communications with your staff introduce the idea that a policy is needed. Again, ask for their input, ideas, and address any questions. You may want to work with a representative or two to make sure there is a team approach.

Can I tell employees how to act with their personal online accounts?

This is a grey and evolving area of employment law that crosses lines of free speech and regulation. As the law catches up with the technology, I recommend taking a positive approach to this process. First, it is very important to create a culture in your business where employees want to support your efforts. Develop a social media policy that empowers your employees (rather than restricts their actions) and stresses their responsibility as an ambassador of the business. Speak with a positive rather than restrictive voice. Encourage them to share content, connect to your business pages, and promote your goods and services when appropriate

Should I allow my employees to login to their social media accounts during the workday?

Part of creating a culture of responsibility is having employees who will use social media for the benefit of the business when they are on the clock. They should know the difference between goofing off and supporting your online efforts. Talk to your employees about their online presence and be clear that only interactions during the day supporting the business are highly encouraged.

Should I provide training for my staff on social media?

Absolutely. Given that social media is a hot new field for business, placing importance on training your staff will show you value the continual development of their skills. Through training you can communicate best practices, promotional strategies, and the important role they can play. In fact, you could consider bringing in an outside consultant to train and communicate to your staff the benefit of their cyberspace support to the entire business structure.

Having guidelines in place to help you and your employees navigate through the relatively new world of social media is critical. Your policy is a work in progress and will need revision as it is used in practice. Keeping lines of communication open with your employees will facilitate discussion when new situations arise that need to be addressed.

The first big disclaimer: Many industries (i.e. pharmaceuticals and financial services) are struggling but at the same time regulating what businesses and individuals operating in the field can push out on social media sites. If you operate in an industry that is highly regulated in other areas, more than likely there is already control over social media. Investigating the

The second big disclaimer: As with all business policies, it is always a good idea to run your ideas past legal counsel.