What You Need to Know to Improve Your Company’s Social Media Policy Guidelines

The onus is on PR to create a social media policy (we hope you have already, but surveys show plenty of companies have not). Once your policy is written, the work is far from done. It’s also on you to update the policy. A good rule of thumb is to look at updating the policy at least yearly, due to the fast-changing nature of social media. Social media policies should be living, breathing documents.

  • Be specific. One the biggest problems with social media policies is that they are too unclear. The lack of specificity means having clarity in language and rules. Complex rules and overly broad terms will doom a social media policy from the start.
  • Recognize that employees use social media. A lot. Creating rules that limit social media use and anticipate every potential negative posting about an organization will fail. Craft a policy with the idea that workers will use social media in some form.
  • Prioritize what’s important. An organization cannot ban everything said about it on the Internet. If an organization values its trade secrets, financial reports or promotional strategy, then limit employee communication on those issues. By trying to ban everything that employees will say on social media, the organization in effect bans nothing.
  • Make sure your employees understand the policy. Having a policy is useless if no one understands it. Providing employee training on the policy helps employers highlight what’s important. Employees also may provide valuable feedback during these sessions.
  • Keep the policy flexible. Writing a social media policy means you recognize technology is changing. Because of that, social media policies should avoid being medium-specific. This also means policies should not be written in stone. Update them yearly and when new social media platforms emerge.

4 Ways to Add Clarity to Your Social Media Policy

  • Avoid jargon. Organizations attempt to provide clarity by using specific terms that are unknown to their employees. Jargon and complex syntax should be removed in favor of short, simple rules.
  • Provide concrete examples. Sometimes a rule or policy doesn’t make sense unless it’s placed in context. Providing hypothetical examples of specific rules may give clarity to the reader.
  • Structure the policy to be readable. Having a policy that has multiple paragraphs and subparagraphs reduces readability. Hidden clauses and fine print are signs of a policy that may be in violation of federal law. Avoid writing a policy that makes the reader refer back to previous statements or headings.
  • Avoid catchall phrases. Companies want to make sure they have covered every conceivable scenario in a policy. This is impossible and confusing to readers. Catchall phrases and overly broad language contribute to vagueness.

Source: Cayce Myers, assistant professor, department of communication at Virginia Tech. This above content is a book excerpt from PR News’ Book of Employee Communications and Strategies. To order a copy, please go to prnewsonline.com/prpress

This article originally appeared in the June 29, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.