HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Employee Policies for Social Media

Politically and culturally, the American public seems more polarized than it has been. The rapid emergence of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and others means that virtually anyone can have a platform to share his or her views with the world in their rawest form.

social media
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This combination means a single individual can ruffle a lot of feathers. If that individual happens to work for your company, that could pose some tricky questions about if and how to manage employee social media use.

In this post, we look at one factor to consider with such policies: the relationship between the post and the company.

Whose Account?

Many companies have their own social media accounts. At one end of the spectrum of the relationship between post and company is when the post is from the company’s accounts.

As a general rule, the keys to the company social media accounts should be in the hands of very few people—maybe the head of the marketing or communications departments or their designees. For smaller companies, it may be only the heads of the companies themselves who have the keys.

References to the Company

Even when an employee posts from his or her own account, references to the company can create the perception that the company endorses those posts.

This could come in the form of mentioning the company directly—either criticizing or endorsing a recent policy, for example—or something less direct like signing the post with a company title or logo that might, to those viewing the post, tie the company to the content.

Companies should be clear with employees whether, when, and how it is appropriate to reference the company in their social media activity.

High-Profile or Key Employees

Some staff are so directly tied to the company brand that it’s hard for social media audiences not to link what they say to the company they work for. Obvious examples include Jeff Bezos and Amazon or Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

But depending on the community (i.e., local market, industry-focused, etc.), the person posting doesn’t have to be a celebrity CEO or founder for social media audiences to make that link.

For example, everyone in a small city might know who a top VP at a local company is, or a prominent physician might be closely tied to the hospital he or she works for by the local medical industry. Even if these employees make no mention of their company whatsoever, audiences’ perceptions of the company might be impacted by what the employee says or does on social media.

Traditionally, employers and employees alike have maintained a fairly clear line between work life and personal life. But the individual reach afforded by social media and the polarized political and cultural environment mean companies may need to pay more attention to what employees post on social media, even if the companies aren’t named directly.