5 Social Media Policies Every Boss Should Enact and Live By

Should you accept friend requests from your staff? Monitor what they tweet and post? Follow these rules to avoid sticky situations.
social media keyboard
Learn to navigate the employer-employee interactions online. (Photo: CLFortin/Shutterstock)

Your business is small, so chances are you’re tight with some of your staff. But does that mean you should be friends on Facebook? And how much attention should you pay to what they put online — should you monitor their social media accounts to make sure their posts and tweets don’t disparage your business in any way?

Experts offered this advice for navigating the murky waters of employer-employee interactions online.

Connect with your employees only on LinkedIn

Think twice before becoming Facebook friends, advised Linda Pophal, a marketing communication consultant at Strategic Communications, LLC, who helps clients manage their online communications. Facebook is geared to sharing our personal lives — and your employee may share more than you’re comfortable seeing. The reverse may be true, too — do you really want employees to see you in a bathing suit, know your political views or how and where you spend your off hours?

LinkedIn is a better choice for connecting online, said Pophal. “LinkedIn is a more professional social network, so it is far more common to see managers and staff connected to each other [there],” she said.

Don’t send friend requests

It’s not completely taboo to be friends with your staff on Facebook, but don’t make the first move.

“Bosses should not initiate social media connections with their employees,” said Phillip Reinhardt, CEO of digital marketing company PBJ Marketing. He advises clients on engagement within the digital space. “It may place the employee in an uncomfortable position where they may feel harassed or coerced, depending on the circumstances.”

Use your privacy settings

Privacy settings are essential to maintaining the right public image, and they can also allow you to keep a professional rapport with employees online.

“I don’t want to come off like the cold, aloof boss who doesn’t want to be your Internet friend,” says Reinhardt. “I will friend [staff], but [they’re] not going to see much of my Facebook page because I have a strict privacy setting for anyone labeled work or restricted.”

Write down your rules

You can’t control what your employees say on social media, and whether or not you can reprimand them for controversial posts is a tricky legal issue. What you can do is establish social media guidelines in your employee handbook, said Lew Bayer, CEO of Civility Experts.

“People are allowed to have a personal and social life. If Facebook is part of that for employees, let them have it,” she said. “But do include clauses in the workplace code of conduct, privacy and policy manuals that employees are expected to maintain confidentiality and [avoid] discussing coworkers or the business in their personal social media. Keep in mind that this excludes positive press, too.”

Consult with a legal advisor to make sure your policies follow guidelines set by the National Labor Relations Board.

Be cautious about monitoring

Whether or not you connect with employees on social media, some simple Googling will bring up their public posts. Should business owners monitor what their staff is saying online?

Experts who say yes argue business owners can gain valuable insight by doing it. “You don’t need to make a daily habit out of it, but you should be aware of your employees’ social media activity,” said Reinhardt.

“Your business is a brand and your employees represent that brand. For example, I once represented one of the world’s largest alcohol brands. One day, my employee posted a picture of herself visibly drunk at a bar with the caption ‘Blackout Sunday Fundays. YOLO!’ When it came down to representing a multimillion dollar brand who created the motto ‘Drink Responsibly,’ she was asked to YOLO elsewhere.”

Monitoring can also help you see who’s good at the social media game. “Pay attention to those who are actually social media gurus, who treat themselves as a brand and are actually quite good about it,” said Reinhardt. “One of our interns had a massive social media following. I monitored him for a while, observing and admiring his best practices. I hired him to do social media for us and some of our clients.”

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