Chapter 18: Policies & Terms of Use

Organizations that communicate online must keep up-to-date with current world events. You do not want to be caught posting a “Motivational Monday” quote or a scheduled humorous anecdote right after a natural disaster.

In fact, companies have been warned time and time again to not post about the death of a famous individual, terrorist attacks, or other sensitive events on social media. In these types of situations, many still feel that companies should stay silent. Individuals who feel passionately about responding to the tragedy should use their personal accounts to do so.

Creating Policies

Polices are required to be proactive to mitigate potential risks of posting on social media.

Audiences are turning more and more to social media to find information about organizations, products, and services. Organizations are realizing the importance of creating policies to control their website’s “official” presence, which may include any of the digital platforms or content discussed previously in this OER textbook.

Policies can ensure messaging delivered online plays a positive role in creating and maintaining a brand’s reputation. Organizations may also have an “unofficial” presence—developed by employees’ personal blogs, posts, online interviews, reviews, YouTube videos, LinkedIn accounts, and so on.

“Policies that draw clear lines on what employees should and shouldn’t say online, whether in company-authorized content or in personal posts, can help you make sure that your company is being represented positively and appropriately in cyberspace.” (Guerin, 2017, p. 7)[1]

Social Media Policy

The following is a hypothetical social media policy to guide online interactions for the fictitious business: Land. This policy has been modified and updated from a template provided by Lisa Guerin, J.D., in Smart Policies for Workplace Technologies.

Example of a Social Media Policy

Our Company’s Social Media Presence

Social media is an important technology for our Company. Social media tools, including Company-sponsored blogs and microblogs, social networking sites, video or picture sharing sites, wikis, and other means of communicating online, are a key part of our Company’s face to the public. These social media offer opportunities to shape opinion about our products and our company, to communicate directly with customers and clients, to provide added value for our customers, and to be part of the online conversation about important developments in our field.

Social Media Goals

We use social media primarily to communicate with and add value to our clients’ lives. Our Company uses three separate social media platforms to engage with clients and target future customers through paid, owned and earned marketing campaigns. Our company maintains Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok accounts and uses them separately to connect with a variety of audiences. Our goal is to keep our content original and not to post duplicate content across all of our platforms. Our company uses each account for a specific purpose, laid out more specifically in the Sponsored Social Media Strategy document.

Who May Post

Only authorized employees may post to Company-sponsored blogs, social networking pages, or other social media. Authorization is granted by both co-owners. Before you begin posting content, you must have attended a BC accredited social media training course and have official authorization from both co-owners.

Guidelines for Employees Who Post

  1. Be respectful. When you post about the Company, its products and employees, customers, and competitors, use good judgment. Make sure your posts are professional and respectful. Disagreement is fine, so long as you do so in a civil way and you’re not offensive.
  2. Add value. We expect you to write about new developments and trends in your area of expertise. Don’t just recycle news or posts; add your perspective and provide useful advice to enable consumers to better use our services.
  3. Post often. We want readers to return and see what’s new at our Company and the best way you can help make that happen is to post at least every other week.
  4.  Be part of the conversation. When appropriate, link to other sites, articles, blogs, and media on the same topic. By sharing our partners’ content, we show that we are part of the Metro Vancouver community. And, of course, link to our Company site when appropriate.
  5. Accuracy counts. Before you publish a blog post or a social media entry, review it for accuracy. When writing about Company business, check with the appropriate people in-house to make sure you’ve got the facts straight. If you later learn that you’ve made a mistake, say so and correct it.
  6. Avoid inappropriate topics. We want you to generate interest, but there are many ways to do that without offending readers or placing the Company in the midst of a controversy. All Company policies, including those that prohibit harassment, discrimination, and unprofessional conduct apply with equal force to your online posts.
  7. Respect ownership of intellectual property. Don’t copy or use work by someone else (including text, photos, and video) without proper authorization and, if required, attribution. If you’re referring to a copyrighted story, keep your quotes short; if you want to refer to another’s work, link to it in its entirety.
  8. Keep the Company’s secrets. Don’t refer to or reveal the Company’s trade secrets and proprietary information. This includes stock offerings, financials, products in development, and other confidential information. If you aren’t sure whether to reveal particular information in your post, speak to your manager.
  9. Maintain customer and employee privacy. Do not mention customers by name or identifying details without authorization from your manager. If you want to discuss or mention coworkers in your posts, you must get their written permission first.
  10. Ask—and think—before you post. Remember, your posted content represents you and the Company to the public. All of us want that representation to be positive. If you aren’t certain that what you plan to post is appropriate and legal, check with your manager before you post. Your questions are always welcome.

Identify Yourself

When you respond to a post/comment/DM (direct message) on any Company-sponsored social media, such as our Facebook or Instagram pages, you must identify yourself by name and by your position at the Company. Anonymous responses or posting under pseudonyms or aliases is prohibited. The same rule applies if you are posting comments on behalf of the Company to one of our competitors’ social media accounts, websites, or product pages.

You Are Responsible for Your Posts

Remember, you are legally responsible for what you post online, whether on a personal site or a Company-sponsored site. You can be held personally liable for defaming others, revealing trade secrets, and copyright infringement, among other things. All Company policies apply to your online posts on Company-sponsored sites.

Handling Comments

We encourage reader responses and comments to our social media postings. However, not all reader commentary is fit to print. If you post entries that elicit reader responses or comments, you must follow these guidelines:

  1. Do not allow the posting of spam, advertisements, or comments that merely link to another website (unless they are responsive to the original post). Delete these posts.
  2. Do not allow the posting of any comment that is obscene or offensive. Delete these comments.
  3. Do not allow the posting of any comment that reveals trade secrets or proprietary information. For example, if a competitor’s employee reveals that company’s confidential information in a comment, remove it immediately and report it to your manager.
  4. Do not remove relevant anti-Company comments simply because they are negative. Do not engage in online arguments or “flame wars” through social media commenting. Talk to your manager about how—and through which medium—to respond appropriately.
  5. If you receive a complaint about the company or its products in a comment, immediately notify the Co-Owners, so it can handle the situation directly.

Because of the time and resources it would require to screen comments to our Company’s blog(s), we do not post reader comments. Please turn off the “comments” feature of any Company blog.

  1. Guerin, L. (2017). Smart policies for workplace technology. Berkley, CA: Nolo

This chapter was adapted from Maintaining an Online Presence: Business Management of a Digital Presence by Julia Grav, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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Social Media & Reputation Management Copyright © 2023 by Sam Schechter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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