The Importance Of Developing And Documenting Social Media Policies And Procedures

Managing your brand image on social media has never been more important. In today’s world, consumers expect to engage and communicate with your brand on a wide variety of social platforms. A misstep in one of your tweets, posts, comments, or responses can quickly lead to a social media crisis that results in reputational damage and negative consequences for your brand.

As business consultants, we often talk about the importance of policy documentation, and a social media policy is critical for companies of all sizes. Even if you’re organization isn’t leveraging social media, you can bet your employees are. Therefore, a comprehensive social policy is your best way to govern usage, resolve conflicts, and prevent a PR crisis. 

What Is A Social Media Policy?

A social media policy is a document containing rules for how employees are expected to behave on social media. The policy should apply to employee usage of both company-owned social media accounts and personal social media accounts. A social media policy should be comprehensive and provide instructions on how to communicate and conduct business across a wide variety of social platforms. The policy should be verbally reviewed on a regular basis and made easily accessible for all employees to reference.

Social media policy documentation has several benefits. For one, it creates a set of rules that dictate how your brand is perceived online. It also gives employees much-needed guidance on the right way to promote products and services. Additionally, it helps establish expectations and standards around the type of content and posts that are acceptable for employees to share on their own social accounts.

What Should Be Included In A Social Media Policy?

The details that should be included in a social policy might vary depending on your industry and company size. However, at a high level, you should consider the following topics when constructing your social media policy:

Company Account Management

One of the most important things your social media policy should include is the ruleset for managing company social media accounts. These rules should define who is authorized to access the accounts and who is authorized to post content. As a rule of thumb, you want to limit social media access to a minimal number of employees to help prevent potential security issues or unintended account takeovers.  The policy should outline clearly when access is granted, and when it is, or can be, revoked.

The policy should be accompanied by guidelines pertaining to brand, tone, and etiquette. This is key to helping employees create and post content that is aligned with your company’s mission and values. A process for reviewing content before it’s posted, either by managers, legal, or compliance, should be clearly documented as well.

Generally speaking, your social media managers will have a huge impact on your brand perception, so it’s important these individuals are adequately trained on how to represent your organization.

Handling Conflict Resolution

Social media isn’t just an avenue to promote your brand, it’s also a channel to engage with your customers. Your customers may turn to social media to express positive feedback or to submit customer complaints. It’s always important to respond to these complaints in a timely manner. The response itself is also critical. A poor response is public and visible for all to see, and can quickly lead to a PR crisis. Consequently, conflict resolution strategies should be detailed during the social media policy documentation process.

It can be helpful to outline common customer complaint scenarios and company-approved response processes and appropriate language to help employees better resolve social media conflicts. If you have a PR team, it can also help have them available to your social team in the event of a crisis. 

Explaining Legal Requirements

Two of the most common legal issues related to social media usage are copyright and privacy. If your employees post or share copyrighted material from a company account, it can quickly land you in hot water. Be sure your teams are clear on how to steer clear of copyright violations for text, photos, and videos.

From a privacy perspective, your team must be careful about inadvertently sharing the personal data of customers or employees on any social channel. Even when working through support issues, encourage customers to pass along personal details through a private DM. Additionally, make sure your policy restricts employees from sharing confidential or proprietary company information as well.

If you’re in a heavily regulated industry, such as healthcare or finance, you may have rules regarding the way you talk about or promote your products or services. Make sure those guidelines are well-researched and made absolutely clear for your employees.

Personal Account Usage

Your employees are always going to operate their own social media accounts. From time to time, they may post things that don’t necessarily align with your brand identity. Therefore, you should use your social media policy to document how much freedom to allow these employees. Remember, even content posted to personal social accounts can negatively reflect your brand, so you’ll want to be sure to set expectations on personal usage.

At a minimum, your policy should make it clear that you won’t tolerate hateful or illegal content from employee social media accounts. Posting negative comments or cynicism about your organization should also be forbidden. While you might have less control over personal social media usage, it’s still wise to establish some high-level common-sense rules. You may also decide to discourage employees from disclosing their connection to your organization on social media or adding a disclaimer indicating views expressed on the platform belong to the employee and do not reflect those of your organization.


Good cybersecurity practices are essential for social media managers. Document requirements around password complexity and two-factor authentication to help limit unauthorized access to your social media assets. Conduct periodic compliance checks to make sure the rules for passwords are being followed.  Also, train employees on how to spot scams and phishing attempts, and be sure to have a process in place for proactively reporting and documenting unauthorized account access.

As social media continues to have a major impact on the way we do business, rules that govern employee usage of these platforms have never been more important. If your company is struggling with the terms of your social media policy documentation, a business consultant can help. Contact us at Lilly Consulting today.

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