A few years ago, an assistant account executive was let go of by an ad agency in California for posting a picture with a new client on Instagram. Her list of 200 followers did not include any clients — however, it did have a few colleagues from the agency. She was confident that no one important would notice. She was excited because it was a high-profile client, and they were celebrating the win with a party.
Her colleague noticed her post, showed it to her bosses and three hours later, she had to resign. But the situation would have been much different if the agency had predefined social media guidelines that were circulated among employees as part of training.
Now, you may be wondering what these social media guidelines are. Well, we’re here to shed some light on these kinds of situations so that no one from your corporation has to go through anything like this. So, let’s get straight to the point.
- What are social media guidelines?
- 6 benefits of social media guidelines for employees
- 7 tips to start creating social media guidelines for your company
- A comprehensive checklist of social media guidelines
- Examples of how some brands use social media guidelines
- Social media guidelines are guardrails against crises
What are social media guidelines?
Social media guidelines are the rules that govern social media practices for your employees, corporate partners, influencers or marketing agencies. It’s a set of best practices you determine for your staff to follow while posting on your company's social media handles and pages or using their own personal handles.
They outline the appropriate positive behavior that is healthy and helpful for the brand, its consumers and its employees. However, these guidelines differ from policies, and here’s how.
How do social media guidelines differ from a social media policy?
Social media policy is a standard operating procedure (SOP) document elaborating on your and your employees' desired behavior on social media. Its main aim is to protect your brand from legal hassles and disrepute.
However, social media guidelines ensure that social media does not harm your employees, but that it, instead, helps you use its power to strengthen your brand positioning. There are many more benefits of social media guidelines for your employees.
So, let’s take a look.
6 benefits of social media guidelines for employees
Social media guidelines act as a universal guidebook on social media best practices. Here’s how they make a difference for your employees.
They enable employees to engage with the online community through their personal accounts. By being more familiar with these guidelines, your employees can follow and know when to tag your brand’s official accounts.
Social media strategy
Guidelines help you execute the social media strategy that’s been established for your company. They direct your employees on post-related content and the frequency of posts that they need to follow so you can achieve your brand’s goal on social media.
They protect your employees, corporate partners or marketing associates from posting something incorrect or offensive on social media. This, in turn, also helps protect your brand.
Protection from privacy and security threats
These rules act as a handbook to train your employees to identify cybersecurity and privacy risks and protect your brand.
They guide your employees on what to post in case of an announcement for an event or an emergency.
Identify the mischief-makers
They help you spot the employees who stray from the rulebook.
Now that you know how these guidelines can be a big plus for your brand, here are some tips that can help you draft your very own guidelines.
7 tips to start creating social media guidelines for your company
1. Summarize the guidelines
Summarize the main points of your guidelines at the beginning so your employees know what’s coming ahead. Give ample internal links so they can jump to specific guidelines for different posts.
Additionally, at the outset, you should explain to your employees that these guidelines do not limit their creativity but facilitate a smooth flow of ideas and information.
2. Be clear about your purpose
Educate your employees on your brand’s purpose to be present on social media. Tell them what you are trying to achieve with your posts. Your company values can help you outline the reason behind your social media presence.
For example, if you want people to see your brand as one that’s responsible, promoting your sustainable activities can show your environmentally conscious side to the target audience and gain a positive brand reputation.
3. Outline the do's, don’ts and whys
This is crucial so your employees know exactly what to do and avoid. Touch upon the sensitive topics in your list of dos and don’ts. A few examples include:
Listing the emojis that are allowed and their frequency per post.
Highlight the ideal tone of posts. Tell them if they can use casual, semi-formal or only corporate-esque language in their posts as company employees.
Clarify if they can use the first person (we, us or I) and second person (you or your). You also need to explain how they should address the brand.
Explain the reasons behind these rules so they can understand and follow them to a T.
4. Include important information
Information like “last updated on” helps you ascertain when it’s time to update the guidelines as per social media trends and new, emerging algorithms. Updated guidelines come in handy in an emergency or a PR crisis, like leaked confidential data. They act as the go-to handbook and help employees take timely, corrective measures.
5. Include the approvals needed to post online
Including the approval hierarchy helps your employees know the path to follow to get their posts authorized before posting.
6. Identify the channels
Identify the channels that resonate with your brand and social media strategy. For example, LinkedIn is an excellent channel for sharing business opinions, industry-related information and insights. But you can switch to Instagram if you ever need a more creative medium to express your brand’s casual side.
7. Define your brand’s tone of voice
Like humans, brands also have their individual tone of voice that differs according to the situation. For example, your brand could be firm when taking a stand for something your company believes in.
Take for instance this X post (tweet) from Coca-Cola when #BlackLivesMatter was trending.
Coke made it clear that it is against racism. Its background color and content indicate a firm tone of voice. This way, a set of solid guidelines can ascertain the success rate of your social media strategy. And a readymade checklist that your employees can refer to can make your job much easier. So, let's jump right into that.
A comprehensive checklist of social media guidelines
1. List your social media accounts
Share your brand’s official social media handles and specific hashtags with your employees. You can also identify which employees can run brand-affiliated social media handles and set the standards. For example, Marriott Careers had tweeted about how one of their staff members battled the pandemic lockdown by spending time with her Marriott outdoor colleagues. What made the post sweeter was that the company tweeted a day before World Mental Health Day and mentioned their stress management tool therein, too.
Ask your employees to add a disclaimer to every post listing their opinions. For example, Intel asks its employees to add #IamIntel and the following disclaimer to each post about their work or industry news: "This is my personal opinion, and it does not represent the opinion of Intel Corporation."
Remind your employees to maintain the confidentiality of company data around the clock. Set procedures for data leakage crises.
Confidential data includes:
Financial figures and information
Upcoming product launch information
4. Cyber safety
Tell your employees to stay safe online by practicing these measures:
Opting for strong passwords and never sharing them with anyone
Employing two-factor authentication
Using a secure internet connection
Avoid downloading suspicious content or data from unsecured websites
Activating geolocation only when necessary, like placing an order on social media
5. Harassment prevention
The guidelines should train your employees on strict measures against harassing someone on social media and what to do in case they are at the receiving end. Include a section guiding your employees on how to handle trolls or bullies. They should know when to ignore, block or report such miscreants.
6. Diversity and Inclusion
Showcase the diversity and inclusion in your company culture through your workforce. Ask your employees to be themselves on social media. Encourage the usage of their individual pronouns (she or her, he or him, they or their, etc.), tell them to avoid gender- or race-specific emojis and slang. They should also report any comments that seem racist or offensive.
7. Legal compliances
Guide your employees on respecting intellectual property and trademarked and copyrighted content online. Your guidelines should elaborate on plagiarism and how to avoid it.
8. Do's and Don’ts
As mentioned above, list critical dos and don’ts and share them as part of your guidelines. These could include:
Tagging the employer when making an official post on social media
Not engaging with your competitors inappropriately
Not commenting on the company’s legal matters publicly
Reporting social media harassment on time
9. Quick links to resources
Add quick links to documents like the company’s code of conduct, mission and values, employee agreements and privacy policies. These direct the employees in the right direction and prevent them from going astray while posting online.
10. Contact details
Add the name of the go-to person, an email address and a phone number in case your employees have a query about the guidelines. There are several brands that you can also take inspiration from for your social media guidelines. Here are a few such example.
Examples of how some brands use social media guidelines
Stanford University has extensive guidelines. They are divided into four elaborate sections:
Guidelines for any social media engagement on behalf of the university
Departmental guidelines for using social media on behalf of the university
Guidelines for personal use of social media by individual employees
Contact details for getting help
On the other hand, Intel’s set of guidelines is fairly simple. It asserts its faith in employees and clarifies that social media policing is not its aim.
And then, there are the SHARP News guidelines — just four brief and crisp rules for their employees to abide by when they go online. These are:
Social media guidelines are guardrails against crises
The guidelines shared in this article are equivalent to a Bible for surviving and thriving on social media. As they say, once it goes on social media, it stays on the internet forever.
Training employees and making comprehensive, easy-to-access social media guidelines can prevent disasters. If you are interested in exploring the power of AI in helping you with your social media strategy, Sprinklr's suite of AI-powered services is a 360-degree solution for you. These tools can take your engagement, content creation and customer interactions to the next level.
The robust AI-enabled tools on Sprinklr Social can help you in avoiding anything embarrassing or brand-threatening from going online on your brand’s page. Take that step today and watch your social media thrive like never before! Book a demo now.
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