by Laurie Clarke

Should UK CIOs have a social media policy

Apr 17, 2019
IT Strategy

Social media increasingly dominates our lives as we rack up hours on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. Its rise has left a lot of companies in the lurch, unsure of how to manage employee social media usage – both within and outside the office.

In response, companies are devising social media policies that guide how their employees should use social media in regards to work. Here are some of the reasons why CIOs should have a social media policy and what kind of points they usually cover.

Why your company should have a social media policy

Employees are going to use social media, whether you like it or not – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While eating into work hours by scrolling on Instagram is not ideal, you may find the most engaged employees proactively share their experiences within the office, boosting the company’s profile online.

When it comes to regulating employee social media use in the workplace, there is a fine line to tread. You don’t want to infantilise employees or come across as overbearing by taking an authoritarian stance on social media use before it is a problem. While most employees may take the occasional break to check Facebook or their messages, this isn’t necessarily a problem. In fact, many employees report the benefits of taking a short mental break from work at intermittent intervals.

However, for some employees, a lack of guidelines may cause them to drift into repeatedly checking their accounts – damaging their productivity. At this point, a quiet word with the employee about their usage may set them straight. However, if it’s a widespread, pervasive problem then it may be worth introducing more draconian rules on whether phones are allowed on desks.

While most offices do not block social media sites on their network, this is also an option. However, if you wish to foster a productive, respect-based relationship with your employees, treating them as petulant children could prove detrimental.

However, there is also the question of what should be included in a social media policy, which can also refer to how employees conduct themselves on social media outside of the workplace. This could span from questions of legality, such as not contravening company privacy or copyright laws, up to asking them to adopt a certain tone if directly speaking about the office.

These guidelines could be shared with new employees in the form of an employee handbook given to them on arrival.

Here, we outline some of the topics you may wish to include in your policy:

This is the most basic and important area of social media usage. Some of the issues include preserving the privacy and confidentiality of the company. Employees should be briefed on what is acceptable to share on social media about the company and what isn’t. Falling into the latter category could be anything that is confidential to the company such as unannounced news, or details of private product information or customer details. It may seem obvious, but without explicit briefing, you could open the company up to potential abuse.

Public perception

This is a little more of a grey area, but covers what the employee should share in terms of their opinion about the company. For example, many companies provide guidelines dictating that the employee should not share anything slanderous about the company or fellow employees. You can also ask employees to identify themselves as an employee when commenting on news related to the company online and perhaps include a disclaimer such as ‘views expressed are my own and do not reflect those of my employer’.

Brand promotion

This point will depend on what kind of business you are. However, those where the employees are sharing information about products or events may benefit from laying out guidelines on how they do this to ensure it is brand-consistent.