Think Before You Tweet

A social media policy can protect your brand

Nearly 70 percent of Americans use social media. However, this freewheeling form of communication has personal and professional risks. Not only might an impulsive tweet or careless Facebook post reflect poorly on the employee, but it can hurt the employer’s brand as well.

“Using social media responsibly is about being mindful of what you put out there,” says Rosa Hardesty, an HR knowledge advisor for the Society for Human Resource Management. Employers can help employees use it wisely by developing a social media policy.

A good policy gives employees advice on what not to do on social media, Hardesty explains, and also gives them guidance on how they can use social media to enhance the corporate brand. Here are three areas a social media policy should cover.

Red Light Means Stop.
Some topics should be off-limits. Employees should steer clear of negative comments about clients, competitors, or coworkers; hate speech that shows racial/gender/sexual intolerance; and information that’s proprietary or confidential to the company.

Yellow Light Means Caution.
Sometimes people say things impulsively on social media that they later regret. “Imagine you’re talking to someone in person. Would you say that?” Hardesty says. Advise employees to think twice before entering into political discourse; engaging in Twitter wars and other heated social media debates; and posting on social media when emotional or angry.

Green Light Means Go.
When employees are trained in using social media, they can become ambassadors for your brand. Employees should be encouraged to add a disclaimer that says the account features their personal views, not the employer’s; share positive news about the company; and promote the brand by sharing company-approved marketing messages.

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