Draft a Strong Social Media Policy: Five Core Tenets

Accept the reality of social media and establish ground rules to outline proper employee use.

April 16, 2015

Draft a Strong Social Media Policy: Five Core Tenets

The surging popularity of social media has made it imperative for credit union management to set expectations with employees on the permissibility of its use.

Careless comments, shares, likes, or incorrect information can quickly and severely damage a credit union’s business and reputation. Potentially worse are ramifications from sharing members’ personal information on social media.

While some missteps may be unavoidable, manage these risks by establishing a strong social media policy.

Even if your credit union has no social media presence, your employees do. Banning employees from using social media is neither wise nor feasible—and with smartphone use exploding, traditional monitoring or blocking methods have become obsolete.

You could end up limiting your ability to recruit and retain top talent. Plus, you’ll lose countless opportunities for employees to be your biggest advocate.

Accept the reality of social media and establish ground rules to outline proper employee use.

While every credit union’s social media policy will be different, keep these five core tenets in mind when drafting your policy:

1. Weave existing policies into your social media policy

Your employee handbook probably includes policies related to a harassment-free workplace, media contact, and conflicts of interest.

Ensure that your social media policy is consistent with these policies.

2. Protect your credit union

Everyone knows that unauthorized sharing of a member’s information is strictly prohibited.

In addition, include other off-limit topics including posting confidential information and discussing legal matters.

Remind employees to respect brand, copyright, trade secret, and trademark protections.

3. Address professional and personal use

Your social media policy should be more than a laundry list of prohibited activities. Empower employees to advocate for your credit union on social media sites, perhaps in conjunction with charitable activities it is sponsoring.

Determine how much leeway employees have and what type of engagement is acceptable.

Provide tangible examples of acceptable and unacceptable social media comments, and encourage desired behaviors. Likewise, consider when a disclaimer may be warranted.

4. Consider how to address negative comments

Your social media policy and internal processes should detail how to respond to negative comments or feedback.

Do you want a central contact or employees to respond? Will this channel be used for customer service?

Employees should never get into arguments over differing opinions.

5. Comply with state and federal laws

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act protects certain social media activity.

Additionally, several states have enacted laws prohibiting employers from requesting usernames and passwords.

Regularly consult a local employment attorney to confirm your policy is compliant.

It’s not enough to simply craft a strong social media policy. Conduct periodic policy training and educate executives and employees about proper use of social media—and the ramifications for failure to do so.

Use training to emphasize the importance of your employees’ social media behavior and your credit union’s values, and establish a contact to field employee questions.

JACK D. WILLIAMS is a senior risk management consultant for CUNA Mutual Group.