All Employers Need Clear Social Media and Equipment Use Policies

Social media is the way an ever-growing number of us stay attached to family, friends, news, and the outside world. The dominant platforms are working to become the No. 1 avenue for how we communicate and interact on our smart devices. But just because it is ubiquitous doesn't mean there aren’t constraints at work, both for what you access during work hours, how you use company equipment to access social media, and what you are allowed to post, whether its personal or about the company.

It’s important that a company have a social media policy, as well as directives on how its equipment can be used (for example, whether it’s OK to log onto to Facebook from a company computer). The clearest (and often safest) policies are typically the most restrictive. They ban use of social media on company time, or via company devices. Posting photos on social from your dog walker during the work day may seem innocuous until it comes time for a review and your personal productivity has been lagging.

That said, many companies acknowledge that employees will be on social media during work hours, and are just as concerned about what happens and what is posted off the clock. All employees, whether they feel like they have signed up as such or not, are ambassadors for the company and brand they work for. An employee’s inappropriate social media use reflects poorly on an employer. Likewise, many employers ask employees to acknowledge publically where they work, and that they are posting as private individuals, not as spokespersons for their employer.

Best Buy has a one-page social media guide that is summed up thusly: Protect the Brand, Protect Yourself. It’s a good, straightforward summary of dos and don’ts, and is worth considering as an example when writing any social media policy.

It’s important to remember to keep policies as short and as clear as possible, and to use them to instill guidelines and common sense. It’s impossible to outline every possible scenario in a policy, and will seem draconian to do so. Provide employees with simple, usable guidelines, and they will be much more likely to heed them.