Social media policy for grown ups

When drafting a social media policy, how do you give your smart, passionate and opinionated team the freedom to manage their own affairs on social media sites, while also ensuring you’ve signalled your expectations about behaviour to them, so they (and the organisation) can be clear on what’s ok and what’s not ok? It may sound wanky, but the fact is if something goes wrong, you don’t want to be in the position where policy vagueness leave your company or your employee vulnerable to censure either internally or externally.

Here’s the draft social media policy I’m working on at the moment. It’s part of a larger communications policy. I’d welcome your thoughts on whether this frames the organisation and its team’s rights and responsibilities clearly enough.

The use of social media by [organisation] and its projects is supported by [organisation], and any official [organisation] or project presence on social media is subject to this communications policy.

Personal social media accounts of our staff are not bound by this policy. We respect the privacy and maturity of our staff, and trust they’ll reciprocate by ensuring that if they talk about [organisation] and its projects in any public forum (including social media) they’ll do so in a professional manner.

Comments or examples of ways to do this better would be welcome!


  1. Chaos Crafter Said,

    August 17, 2011 @ 5:06 am

    That leaves a big question about what is deemed a professional manner for such communications.
    Is it (for example) unprofessional to comment on poor decision making?, poor design? dangerous implementation? unethical business practices? etc?
    For at least one of those I’ve had to make comment outside my work to achieve (legally requisite) change in the workplace. Was that unprofessional of me? I don’t feel it was, but it could certainly be argued it was.
    What about kvetching about having a bad day at work – is that unprofessional? will it be/should it be subject to censure?
    Different people may have very different ideas about what constitutes unprofessional behavior, and I think that is where your social media policy is possibly risky.
    On the other hand, I wish I worked somewhere with one like that.

  2. admin Said,

    August 17, 2011 @ 5:13 am

    Hi Keith,
    Thanks for the feedback. The ability to critique our own work is important in this particular workplace. We can and do talk about things we’ve tried which failed. I do not want to stop that kind of discussion. If it’s done constructively, it’s a good thing, not a bad one.
    I take your point about risk. I don’t think this policy on its own is workable. It’s assuming the organisation is picky about hiring and training people – checks and balances on how people will behave. Stuff like staff induction and just seeing how we behave should signal to newer staff what’s the norm for professional behaviour.
    My feeling is that every day employees make decisions about how they’ll talk about the organisation in public. We shouldn’t hire people who can’t make that judgment call.

  3. Ro Said,

    August 17, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

    I hate to say it but I think you need consequences for failure to act maturely. Otherwise, it’s open to staff saying whatever you then do to someone is an overreactn or they had no idea…

    I think something along the lines of “comments and behavior in social media spaces that bring (organisation) into disrepute are subject to the same penalties as these behaviors would be if conducted in other fora.” This assumes there is a policy elsewhere that deals with such breaches.

  4. admin Said,

    August 18, 2011 @ 1:21 am

    Thanks for the feedback Ro. That is what I was reaching for in the last sentence – because I don’t really think that unprofessional conduct on social media is any different to unprofessional conduct in any other sphere. I guess you’re saying the policy needs to explicitly make that point, and highlight that breaches will result in action.
    I’ll keep working on it, thank you!

  5. Dave Lim Said,

    August 18, 2011 @ 2:34 am

    I like it – simple and clear like a mission statement describing the spirit (rather than the letter) of the policy. It treats the employee like an intelligent professional (which is presumably why they were hired in the first place) rather than assuming bad behaviour.

    You will probably need some form of additional clarifications or guidelines, but you can just reference them and capture them elsewhere. The focused message of the policy can then provide a lens through which to interpret them.

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