As social media marketing becomes an ever more important feature of business life; the importance of a clear social media policy, which is outlined to employees when they first join your business is also becoming apparent.

Over recent weeks, the need for a clear social media marketing policy for all employees to abide by has become apparent, as the case of a US employee being sued by his former employer for damages, because he failed to relinquish his Twitter account when he left the company to work for a rival.

It’s reported that the employee when he left his previous place of employment changed the name on his Twitter profile, and carried on using it – taking the 17,000 followers with him; claiming he’d been given permission to continue using the account after he left.

His former employers are counter-arguing this claim with a lawsuit which totals $370,000 – $2.50 per user, per month – telling the press: “We intend to aggressively protect our customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands.”

The result of this case could dramatically alter how social media is used within businesses in the US – or at least how a social media policy is drawn up – but it isn’t just over the Atlantic where the importance of a social media policy has been highlighted.

During 2008 a recruitment consultant in the UK was ordered to hand over his LinkedIn account after a court ruled the connections he’d amassed on their constituted confidential information gathered during his work and therefore his former employer had the right to access the account.

As recently as last year, a BBC political correspondent moved from the BBC to ITV taking her Twitter account and it’s 58,000 followers with her – and although the BBC didn’t seek legal ownership over her account, this case, along with the two highlighted above adds weight to the argument that a clear “Company Social Media Policy” needs to be in place, to prevent it from becoming a grey area.

….And How To Create One

Creating the perfect social media policy for your business isn’t as straight forward as compiling a list of Dos and Don’ts; nor will each policy be the same for each business. However there are some generic considerations which each business should take into account, and these include:

  • Involving Staff – Your businesses policy will directly affect your staff, so include them in the decisions being made for the policy, this way it helps to ensure that there is a common ground.

    By involving your staff, you’ll also be able to determine what should be considered “social media” – should it involve all social networking platforms, blogs and online video or just a select few of these things?

  • Defining Acceptable Behaviour – This should include the use of language, are abbreviations or slang acceptable / do they fit with your social media strategy? It’s important to make staff aware that they need to consider how their tone and the way they respond will reflect on the company’s branding and culture. It’s also important to outline usage of personal Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts (as mentioned below)
  • Define Copyright Usage – It’s understandable that individuals from time will want to share links to or information from content they’ve produced. This shouldn’t be frowned upon by the business as it can help promote the business and work in favour of the social media strategy that has been laid out.

However, if this is to be approved, it’s important to make sure that all staff are aware of the copyright usage and intelligent property guidelines in place within the business. It should also be made clear to staff that anything updated on their personal profiles should come with a relevant disclaimer.

It may also be advisable to inform your staff that all social media usage regard the business will be monitored. One way that this can be done is to have set social media profiles per department within your business.

Once the agreed social media policy is in place, there should be no reason for their to be a grey area; however due to aspects of social media marketing forever changing and improving, it’s important to ensure that your social media policy is regularly updated too.

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