Bad behavior, new code of ethics policies, legal issues — do you have a social media policy? Here are a few steps to getting your social media policy in line before the new year.

Bad behavior, new code of ethics policies, legal issues — do you have a social media policy? Social media is here to stay, so instead of turning your back and hoping everyone behaves, embrace the emerging technology by creating a companywide social media policy.

Want to know how to do this? Here are some simple steps to get started: 

1. Purpose

First, get clear on the purpose of your organization and its individual needs. What risks — legal and otherwise — are involved? Part of this endeavor is involving your staff in the decision-making process. You can best manage risk as a team; bring together those directly affected by social media as well as top decision-makers such as CEOs, IT directors and a social media-savvy attorney.

2. Core values

Another consideration is your company’s unique set of core values. Every firm is different when it comes to its own set of priorities, so this is where you get to nail yours down about social media and figure out how they play into the nascent policy as a whole. For example, a service-oriented firm that prioritizes responsiveness will want to emphasize this in its policy draft.

3. Legal ramifications

Legal ramifications are enormous when it comes to the intersection of company and social media. The National Labor Relations Act protects employees’ right to organize, including discussing work conditions over social media. It behooves you to be very careful when it comes to language dictating what employees can and cannot say on their own social media platforms.

In this vein, you might want to consider creating dual social media policies, one dictating guidelines for employees while at work and the other offering suggestions for employees on their off-hours. 

Again, you’re going to want to be very careful when dealing with the latter. 

Some guidelines for addressing personal internet use: You’ll want to define acceptable activity inside the office along with deciding whether employees must disclose their affiliation with your firm when posting information about it.

4. Do your due diligence

Do your due diligence, and research the plethora of federal labor laws that might be applicable to your social media policy. 

For example, the Federal Trade Commission lists its rules on providing disclosures for situations, including reviews and endorsements where there is a monetary exchange for social nods. 

Additionally, the National Conference of State Legislatures breaks down the actions being taken by each state with regard to such laws. Your own legal department is also an invaluable resource in terms of advising you on how to proceed.

5. Eliminate ambiguity

While you’re creating your social media policy, make sure to eliminate ambiguity as far as roles. Who will be the Facebook whiz? What about the Twitter maven? Delineate these jobs early so that people have no confusion about who is expected to do what. 

What’s next?

Once your policy is complete, take the time to train employees on what it contains. Now is the time to make what you’ve created both relevant and engaging while understanding that it will likely spur spirited debate. That’s more than OK — it’s encouraged. Get your employees involved and interacting with the new policy, and you’ll find that it will revitalize your company in a new way. 

Keep in mind that merely creating the policy is just the tip of the iceberg.

You’re going to need to review your policy for accuracy and relevance at least once every six months. By keeping the framework current, you’ll ensure that your social media efforts have an informative and engaging foundation from which to grow.

Now, you have your social media policy in place, and you’re ready to go. Now, it’s time to think about the content you want to create to tell the story of what you do and who you are. Content is not a template, and it’s not canned. It’s authentic, and it’s you!

Katie Lance is the author of #GetSocialSmart and founder and CEO of Katie Lance Consulting, a social media strategy firm and founder of the #GetSocialSmart Academy. She’s been recognized by Inman News as one of the 100 most influential people in real estate and is a featured keynote speaker at many industry events. Katie is also is the author of the best-selling book, #GetSocialSmart.

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