Why Your Company Needs a Social Media Policy and 14 Corporate Social Media Policy Examples

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Yesterday I wrote about how to sell social media to your marketing department, and as a follow-up to that question, I received another email from the same person indicating a big reason why internally their marketing department still doesn’t want to move forward:

“After more in-depth discussions it became apparent that the real concern of our marketing department is protecting our “brand name” while employee’s use social media to, essentially further their own careers and successes. I hadn’t looked at it from that perspective but it does present some challenges.”

The fear of how one’s employees will use sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook is a knee-jerk reaction by those who, once again, might not be new adopters to these tools.  But upon analysis, it is clear that there is a natural progression of understanding that needs to take place here:

  1. Why not being active in social media can hurt your brand;
  2. Why your company was never in control of their brand (or the conversations of its employees) ;
  3. Why there is a need for a corporate-wide education program; and
  4. Why corporate social media policy creation is the only way to set proper usage guidelines and “protect” the company.

Using Social Media Helps Protect Your Brand Name

If all of these online conversations are taking place and you’re not active in social media, how can you be “protecting” your brand name from what may already be taking place in the outside world?  Rather than a narrow approach looking internally at one’s own employees, what are your customers, competitors, and industry insiders potentially saying about your company?  The only way to find out is by monitoring social media conversations, and the only way to truly “protect” your brand name is by being in active on those social media websites wherever your target audience is to proactively manage how others will perceive your brand name.

Companies Were Never in Control of Their Brand (or Their Employees)

What have your employees been saying about your company on the phone or through emails?  Do you monitor all of the conversations they have with others at trade shows?  Companies were never in control of the conversations that their employees have about their business, so the “brand name” has never been protected.  At least with social media, when compared with other types of conversation, the information is public in a good way: Companies can now often see what their employees are saying on the various social media websites which can actually help to “protect” their brand name.  Remember: New Tools, Old Rules.  This challenge is nothing new.

On the other hand, since a “brand name” is only something that is perceived by others, companies were never in full control of it to begin with, right?

Social Media Use Inside the Company Needs Education

Even if you’ve bought into the argument so far, there is still a missing piece here: How can you be sure that your employees will responsibly use these websites as official representatives of your company?  There is a learning curve associated with social media like there is with any other new tool.  Posting to a corporate Facebook Page is not the same as sharing your favorite photos on your own personal profile.  The only way to overcome this challenge is education.  Pick the person inside your company who seems to have the most understanding of social media and could be a role model as a responsible user.  One approach some of my customers use is to divide the educational responsibilities up amongst several people: 1 is in charge of learning and then educating others on LinkedIn, another on Twitter, and so on.  Find a system that works and educate your employees.

Social Media Policy Creation is the Only Way to Both Set Guidelines and Protect the Company

Now that you have the education piece down, it is time to create internal guidelines for all present and future employees.  This will provide the basis to train all of your employees on how to responsibly use social media.  But don’t stop there: If an employee sends a public message through one of these social websites that in someway violates an existing contract (for instance, exposing company secrets or NDA-protected content), in some cases the company, not the employee, may be the responsible party.  That is why these guidelines, if properly established under supervision by legal professionals, can also help protect your company.  These corporate social media policy policy guidelines, combined with education, should go a long way into standardizing the responsible use of these websites inside your company.

14 Corporate Social Media Policy Examples to Help You Create Your Own Policy

Your company is not alone.  Every other company, big and small, needs to have a policy in place for practical and legal reasons.  While one survey pointed out that only 29% of companies have social media policies back in February of 2010, there is no doubt that this number will increase to near 100% over the next year or two.  While a top notch employment law firm should be considered to supervise the creation and confirm the legality of any social media policy, there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started in learning about what to put in your own policy.  Here are 14 great examples as well as some links to some famous guidelines that have been released for public consumption by large corporations.  After all, if they can control usage of these websites within their own company, any small or medium-sized business should feel confident that they can do the same.

And if the above isn’t enough, here are some people that are putting together more comprehensive social media policy databases that are being regularly updated:

You’ll notice that in this blog post I did not even dwell on the issue of employees using social media to “further their own careers and successes.”  After proper education and looking at how other corporations utilize social media through their guidelines, it is only natural that your marketing department will realize that there are plenty of authentic professional uses of social websites whether it be for Human Resources, Recruiting, Sales, Business Development, and, of course, Marketing!  Enough said.

Any other points that I missed, additional reasons for the creation of a corporate social media policy, or other excellent corporate social media policy examples that I might have missed?  Please comment!

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
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  1. says

    Though I completely agree with your comments, I do not think 100% of the companies will have a Social Media Policy. As an advisor to companies I try and convince them to have one and they keep pushing it away. They live under the impression it will not happen to them!

  2. says

    When I wrote that sentence, I changed the term “100% to “near 100%” because there will always be the late adopter or those in denial. I think once companies realize that these policies actually help protect them they will get on board, but it may take some time for some companies to do so…

  3. says

    Having spent my career working for organizations that provide professional development, I’ve seen the “why should we train our employees, they’ll just leave for better jobs” excuse more times than I can count.

    Good job pointing out that there is plenty of success to be had by *both* employees and their companies.

  4. says

    Absolutely, Troy! Companies have to learn to let go, but a well-written social media policy written under legal guidance WILL provide them the protection that they need. Best of both worlds, no?

  5. says


    Thank you for your article on social media policies and particularly for sharing the 14 social media examples. In recent years I have shared ideas about how to leverage Linked In with management. The feedback that I receive ranges from indifference to passive interest. Management by and large still lives with ideaologies that are hierarchical and monolithic behavior-based. I have read about and studied agile companies that have used social media to their advantage but these still seem to be the exception to the rule. The study data and methodology of your contention “that only 29% of companies have social media policies back in February of 2010″ was not available to me at http://mashable.com/2010/02/03/social-networking-policy/. Although I have no formal study to cite, I hypothesize that the percentage may be even less based on my interaction with West Coast based companies.

    However, people and companies that do use social media probably have a better advantage in the market than previously estimated. As logarithmic changes in technology occur, expoentential changes in the market occur as new techologies are employed above and beyond their original design.

  6. says

    Hey Stephen,

    Thanks for your comment, and you are absolutely right in your instincts. I am actually writing a blog post about social media and Executives, and I do believe there is a serious fear factor that is similar to a knee-jerk reaction at a lot of companies. The funny thing is that a good social media policy is an excellent CYA and would be a great way to start defining how to engage with the new media. Like yourself, I also feel that those companies who start engaging early will have a lot to gain and the others will literally be locked out of the conversation.

  7. Anonymous says

    Excellent article, we always try to get a policy in place at least a draft before any campaign is launched. When writing it HR is involved but not the driver, it is still a marketing program through and through.

    • says

      Thanks Al. Good to hear that even with a campaign you try to get a policy in place. I can see for these campaigns that Marketing is the driver, but HR really does need a seat at the table as well.

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