5 Components of a Social Media Policy in a Regulated Industry

A sound social media policy serves two key purposes: 1. to educate employees on use within and outside a company work environment and 2. to mitigate corporate risk through guidance on process and procedure as it relates to industry compliance and messaging.

For some more heavily regulated industries, the latter becomes extremely important.

Several organizations within the financial industry monitor and assess what companies say and provide to their customers via social media. They have the ability to fine and penalize companies who are not compliant. Staying compliant is highly recommended. Below are advised guidelines provided by a few who monitor the financial industry:

In order to implement a successful policy that remains compliant, there are a few key components to consider.

1. Cross-Functional Collaboration

A social media policy will touch multiple areas of an organization. It is important to involve the key departments that can offer guidance on best practices and direction for a policy. The collaboration across a company will allow for a more secure end product. Consider including your legal department for compliance, corporate for reputation insights, IT for technical, human resources for procedural policy and marketing for implementation.

2. Define Objectives, Set Goals

Success of a social media policy relies heavily on defining the objectives and goals a policy hopes to achieve. Addressing this component should be the foundation on which you build a social media policy. Tailor your policy to your company culture and consider defining social media so that all involved are on the same page. With a regulated industry, it is particularly important to take a risk-based approach to social media when defining goals and expectations.

3. Clear Guidance and Messaging

The policy should answer in clear language questions commonly asked by a company’s employees. Address topics such as defined process and procedure for social media use by employees and corporately. If a company plans to monitor employees internally, it should be made clear up front. And identify your stance on internal use of personal devices, as well as business-issued devices, for social media activity.

Some companies approach their social media policies from a common sense rule for how employees should engage in social media. However, in a regulated industry, this type of approach needs to offer clear examples of what users can and cannot say or do on social media. Helping your audience understand the expectation and repercussion of misuse is important to establish.

Companies should think about setting general guidelines that speak to social media use. These could include items such as being honest; never sharing confidential information; and always being professional, transparent and polite when engaging on social media. Setting guidelines and expectations, as it relates to your policy, will help everyone stay compliant.

4. Compliance

Being compliant is a key component to help mitigate risk. Regulated industries need to become familiar with the regulations set forth from those who monitor their industry. To that end, companies should develop proper procedures for specific actions, archive social media posts and show an effort to monitor what their employees or company representatives say on social media.

A governance structure can help to streamline roles and responsibilities within a company to establish accountability. A social media policy, as it relates to compliance, needs to offer oversight and assign responsibility to key stakeholders. Many companies ensure internal compliance by requiring all employees to read and sign their social media policy, as acknowledgement of guidelines and consequences to their online actions.

5. Educate, Train, Enforce

The most important component to a successful social media policy is education. It is the company’s role to ensure that all employees understand the policy and have the opportunity to learn best practices. With the implementation of a new policy, companies should offer training sessions for the platforms on which they are active. This will mitigate the risk of non-compliance and inform users in proper procedures and actions. A company needs to respond to internal non-compliance with enforcement of the disciplinary action set forth by the social media policy.

For those who manage a company’s social media accounts, address and implement a "Crisis Procedure Process" to streamline response time to potentially negative issues raised on social media directed at your company.

By incorporating these five components into your policy discussion, you can begin taking the steps you need to develop and implement a successful social media policy. Being clear on the goals and messaging will assist your company and employees in their future success with social media.

How has your company approached a social media policy? What has been successful? Please share in the comments.

Title image by Dricker94 (Flickr) via a CC BY-ND 2.0 license