A social media policy should encourage employees to use social media effectively and responsibly. It should not be a long, boring document which a company rolls out with the sole purpose of punishing employees for social media posts that it doesn’t like. I’ve seen examples of terrible social media policies far too often, but to my surprise, I’ve also seen a lack of a social media policy entirely.
Here are some risks a company runs if it doesn’t have a social media policy:
Data breaches: Employees need to understand what information they should post on social media and what they shouldn’t. For example, without a social media policy, employees might upload or post sensitive personal information about your customers. They might also post commercial information, such as your financial performance or planned mergers or acquisitions.
Cyber risk: Cyber criminals use social media to scam their victims or even to distribute malware and viruses. According to Symantec, a growing number of hackers are targeting professionals on LinkedIn. A social media policy should address this risk and provide guidance and examples about how to identify a malicious posts and outline how your employees can protect your company.
Reputational damage: Your employees may not have malicious intent, but may make bad decisions in social media which harm your company’s reputation. For example, they might argue with customers or post inappropriate or offensive content. There are many ways a company’s reputation can be damaged, but in the fast-paced world that we live in, people are often the weak link in the chain.
Abuse: Bullying has unfortunately always existed, whether in the school playground or at work. Some people see social media as a wild west where anything goes. Your policy should explain a zero tolerance approach to abuse of any kind. It should also set out the process for dealing with and reporting incidents of abuse.
Loss of competitive advantage: Social media is here to stay and all companies are impacted by it. Without a social media policy your company won’t be able to get the most out of it. Your customers may not be engaged and you might not able to keep up with your competition. What’s more, being open to social media and new ways of working can actually help you attract new talent.
A social media policy should encourage positive behaviors. It should encourage employees to use social media more effectively and to engage in conversations about their company’s products, services and other topical issues facing their industry.
Almost every week I read a story about a company’s reputation being damaged, employees being fired and even people being sent to jail. All as a direct result of poor decisions made in social media. A company without a social media policy is like a car without brakes. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
Phil Mennie (@PhilMennie) is PwC’s global social media risk and governance leader and author of “Social Media Risk and Governance: Managing Enterprise Risk.”