HR Basics, HR Management

Four Ways To Do a Social Media Policy That’s Simple, Smart, and Right

rules

I’ve gone on the record of saying that social media policies are generally unnecessary. More than anything, employees need education instead of policy in dealing with emerging technologies.

Given the comments and general response I get when this is suggested though, it seems that this is a fairly unpopular idea. HR pros think they need the policy, in-house lawyers demand them and despite evidence they obfuscate other important issues, businesses feel they are still necessary. Even if other rules already cover their action or if what they really need is education, not policy.

Fine. I get it.

But I did see an example of a social media policy that did it right. It made stop beating the “no social media policy” drum for a few minutes and admit that, if I were forced to do a social media policy, this is how I would put it together.

Edmunds gets it right

I was passed along a link to Edmunds.com’s social media policy. Now I’ve seen a lot of social media policies and I’ve even referenced some in the past during speaking engagements. Most color me as unimpressive ,and the best case scenario is typically one written in plain English that isn’t terribly punitive.

Edmunds Social Media Guidelines took a completely different approach. They made it visual and simple, yes, but more so, the content is right on as well. From an employee communications standpoint, it is hard to do better than this.

There are four things they did that really stood out to me, though.

1. It’s really simple

It took me a few minutes to take in the entire chart. The communication is clear and simple, even when explaining nuanced components of social media like the cultural differences between online communities or the difference between representing the company and yourself. Making it simple and visually appealing has made it easier than ever to understand what the company expects. Wading through even the best written policy is still a disadvantage in comparison to this appealing visual.

2. It’s encouraging

So many policies get into the minutia of what is and isn’t appropriate that it is hard to take actionable steps to make sure you’re in line with it. Edmunds’ policy is simple and clear enough to encourage employees using social media use on the first day of work. That’s self-supporting in that it not only gets more employees on social media, but those who are have a better understanding of where Edmunds stands and can be confident in their use of it.

3. It isn’t punitive

Where’s the classic HR language like, “Disciplinary action up to and including termination?” Luckily, that was left on the cutting room floor. Even if you leave out my opinion about heavy-handed language in policies that very few people read anyway, this is a perfect opportunity to show that policy application is nuanced. It depends on the situation and severity. Responding perhaps a bit too harshly to one person on Twitter isn’t the same as leaving a profanity laced tirade on a popular message board. Employees get it, no need to put it in their face at every opportunity.

4. It’s informative

Edmunds Social Media Guidelines goes over some of the key issues to discuss with employees, especially if they are new to social media. So rather than just being a policy, it also informs employees of the common threads that run through social networks. They address key things like the permanence of social media postings, avoiding spamming, not talking over your head, misrepresenting yourself, and not revealing damaging information. Not only that but they give many resources to determine if you have any doubts, and the guidelines encourage best practices (like contributing useful information and the lack of true anonymity online).

Do you like the model that Edmunds has here? Have you seen something you like better? If you have to have a social media policy in the workplace, I hope you follow something closer to Edmunds’ example than some cookie cutter policy an attorney will produce.

Lance Haun is an editor at The Starr Conspiracy, a marketing agency focused on the enterprise HCM market. He spent three years as an editor at ERE Media and seven years in the recruiting and HR trenches before joining the agency. You can follow him on Twitter, circle him on Google+, check out his blog or contact him directly at lance@coug.rs.
  • http://twitter.com/shellyrecruits Shelly Recruits

    Edmunds did a great job, outlining a policy that isn’t too scary for the staffer who is not quite sure if they should (or are even allowed to) chat up their workplace in social venues. Thanks for sharing! Great best practice example!

  • http://www.cascadeemployersblog.com Michelle

    I work with an attorney that insists upon having a social media policy…for telling employees what they CAN do rather than what they CANNOT do. It is a powerful tool if used wisely, I wish more companies would take on the challenge.

    Good article – thanks! 

  • http://www.talenttalks.com/ TalentTalks

    Simplicity is almost always under-rated and under-appreciated. Unfortunately, SM policies are just the latest topic that certain HR people seem to build unecessary paranoia around. Rather than developing yet another complex, legal-ese riddled policy, HR practioners should be pursuing common-sense approaches to leverage their employee-base and any technology tools to generate a culture of accountability, transparency and innovation.

  • http://i-sight.com i-Sight Software

    This is definitely a great example of what a social media policy should look like. They’ve
    managed to include all of the important elements – not sharing confidential information,
    being mindful of the comments you leave, etc. – without making the policy drag
    on. I like the fact that they explain the reason for the policy at the
    beginning and have been very mindful of the language used in the policy.

  • KbhilferLaw

    Simplicity is one of the keys. In my post on lessons from the US Constiuttion in drafting social media policies, I explore how the simple and short framework of this historic document can help inform social media policy drafting. See: bit.ly/tZquqV