How to Write Social Media Guidelines That Help Employees and Protect Your Brand

Last updated: 02-10-2020

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How to Write Social Media Guidelines That Help Employees and Protect Your Brand

Editorial Process and Teams / Social Media / Content strategy for marketers / Examples
How to Write Social Media Guidelines That Help Employees and Protect Your Brand
More than 90% of brands used social media to increase their visibility, managing between four and 10 accounts on average, and there’s no signs of slowing down.
That same study found 80% of companies say that social media grew in importance between 2017 and 2018. It was even felt in the C-suite – less than a third of marketers found it difficult to convince CEOs to invest in social.
While corporate social accounts are a great way to promote content, engage with audiences , recruit talent , and drive sales, employee advocates are a critical component for achieving social media’s potential.
Why do your brand advocates matter? People are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend than from a brand, and your employees have the potential to be your most authentic advocates on social media.
Enterprises especially can reap the benefits of having thousands of eager brand ambassadors, but this requires documented social media guidelines to not only allow your team members to thrive on social but also to protect your brand from legal risks.
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Take a responsible approach to workplace social media policies
Whether you like it or not, the employees will talk about your company on social media, and it’s their federally protected right  to do so.
Many businesses react with fear and develop extensive restrictions around what employees can or cannot say online. They have employees agree to a list of “don’ts” and consider that the end of the conversation.
Developing guidelines that serve as guardrails for social media activity can show your employees that you want them to be engaged online, helping to build on your company’s social media success.
Follow the essentials for your guidelines
The length of your social media guidelines is less important than the accessibility and quality of your guidelines. Ensure that any employee can understand the guidelines. Consider creating one-pagers or cheat sheets for specific purposes, like training or unique campaigns.
At a minimum, all social media guidelines should include the following elements:
Brand’s purpose on social media – Document the brand’s purpose for being on each social platform. Whether it’s recruitment, content amplification, customer advocacy, etc., the guidelines should explain why the company is on each channel and how employees can mirror that purpose.
Company style guide – List any trademark needs and provide the correct spelling for any company products or services so that employees correctly present the brand. You should also define your brand personality and any language considerations employees should consider.
Access to shared brand asset folder – Create a central folder employees can access for company logos, how-to’s, shared FAQs, branded profile headers for social sites, and more. Consider creating a list of preferred hashtags and purpose, especially with company hashtags such as Dell’s #IWorkForDell or IBM’s #ProudIBMer . Keeping this information in one place can increase the likelihood employees will stay on brand.
If you’d like a deeper look at these areas, including resources to help you define your social media goals, check out my post, Why Social Media Guidelines are the Key to Unlocking Employee Brand Advocacy .
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Use guidelines as a brand defense
The stakes can be high for enterprises when employees use their social media channels in unapproved ways, and savvy companies know the importance of developing extensive social media guidelines.
Get ahead of potential issues and address these all-too-common social media pitfalls in your guidelines:
Legal concerns – Make it incredibly clear at the start of all projects what is and is not approved for social sharing. Also, while many people differ on the use of “views-are-my-own” disclaimers, large enterprises should discuss whether they want employees to have such a clause on their accounts.
Unsanctioned brand accounts – When your company spans a wide swath of your country or the globe, employees may take it upon themselves to create localized accounts. Address this by listing all official corporate accounts in your social guidelines and ask team members to use only those for brand-related matters.
List all official accounts in #socialmedia guidelines and ask employees to only use those, says @sferika via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
Consider having a social media request form that allows employees to suggest new accounts or content. This way, their enthusiasm can be better harnessed with a conversation versus an email request to please delete the rogue account.
Departed employees – As employees move on to different career opportunities, they may forget to update their profiles to note that they are no longer with your company. This could cause confusion when they start posting content about their new companies or when customers search LinkedIn for current staff. While you cannot force individuals to change their social account information, at least make the request a part of the exit or off-boarding process.
While you can’t force individuals to change their social account information, at least make the request a part of the off-boarding process. @sferika via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
Enterprise social media guidelines examples
Many brands make their guidelines public. Those can serve as great models for your company’s guidelines. Keep in mind, though, these are just the public-facing documents. The companies likely have more expansive guides for internal audiences.
Each of these three examples has unique elements, but they boil down to the same point – not everyone knows how to act online.
IBM  – This tech giant quickly clarifies when its guides were last updated, an indicator that they are reviewed periodically. What stands out in this guide is that employees are clearly encouraged to engage in industry conversations online and to have their own blogs. “Bring your own personality to the forefront” is part of the company’s guidelines, with the necessary caveat to not use offensive or harmful language.
Dell – This policy is distilled into five, easy-to-digest bullets for employees, and directs employees to the Dell social media team email for additional questions. This guide tackles the issue of rogue accounts, noting that an account created for Dell may be considered Dell property and accounts cannot be created to ride on the success of Dell’s corporate accounts.
Ford – The company clearly labels its active platforms and stresses that employees must be honest about their relationship with the company and disclose that the views on their pages are their own. What’s great about this guide is that it provides resources that employees should point to if asked about vehicle or repair concerns or how to share an idea for the company.
Educate employees on the social media guidelines
As part of every employee’s onboarding, a member of the social team should discuss the company’s social media policies and guidelines, and help any new hires set up their channels in a brand-relevant way.
To maintain and grow awareness of the company’s social media policies, get creative:
Host lunch and learns. These informational meetings allow attendees to enjoy their food while you discuss topics relevant to your company’s social media channels. If your company has multiple offices, do a video conference. Record the conversation to provide a playback file for folks who are unable to participate.
Post social media office hours. In case employees are hesitant to ask questions during meetings or regular day-to-day operations, give them a safe place for in-depth, one-on-one time by hosting regular social media office hours. This strategy establishes your social team as a helpful resource rather than the brand police.
Send social media amplification emails. One of the quickest ways to distribute information, email employees regularly to share content you want the team to amplify. Include suggested text for easy plug-and-play for busy employees. You cannot rely solely on email, though, as internal emails have an average open rate of 63% .
Create a social media Slack channel. If Slack is where work happens in your organization, make sure all of your social content is shared there as well.
Hold employee meetings. Create regular update/reminder slides employees can include in presentation decks during company all-hands or all-team meetings or individual group or office meetings.
Use the company intranet. An intranet can be a great resource to increase productivity and distribute information for employees. Share updates to the social media policies and use it as a hub for all your social resources.
Develop training videos. With more internal resources available, enterprises can explore using video to educate employees on topics related to social. Research has found  that viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to just text, so the time commitment to create a video could pay off in message retention.
Use the company intranet to share #socialmedia policies and use it as a hub for all your social resources, says @sferika via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
Continue success with social media guidelines
In addition to the core social media guidelines, ensure that employees can access the brand voice so they can mirror your brand’s language and engage with content that you think best emulates what you want to see your employees doing on social media platforms.
Ongoing monitoring and education are the keys to getting the most out of your guidelines. But with an eager brand advocate base on your side, you’re more likely to see the social ROI you need to achieve your goals.
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Expand your social media skills and learn how to grow your program at Content Marketing World this October. Make your plans now to join us in Cleveland. Register today . 
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Author: Erika Heald
Erika Heald is a San Francisco-based marketing consultant and freelance writer. She focuses on helping technology and specialty food startups define their content marketing strategy to drive lead generation and customer loyalty. Erika led and grew high-performance content marketing teams at Highwire PR, Anaplan, and Achievers. You can find her on her blogs erikaheald.com and erikasglutenfreekitchen.com , or hosting the weekly #ContentChat Twitter chat.
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