21 Social Media Policy Examples to Learn From

Learn the good and the bad from real-life sample social media policies

Below are 21 real-life social media policy examples from various industries. For each example, we’ll highlight what we like about the specific social media policy, as well as what we think could be improved.

Social Media Policy Examples

Included policies:
Adidas | Adobe | BestBuy | Coca-Cola | Dell | Edmunds | ESPN | FedEx | Ford | General Motors | IBM | Intel | JP Morgan Chase | Mass General | Mayo Clinic | Pfizer | Reuters | State of Utah | US Air Force | Walmart | Xerox

Adidas Social Media Guidelines

Adidas’ social media policy is clean, concise, and less stuffy than other policies.

We like to see policies with a lot of common sense and human-speak, as opposed to full of “legalese.” This policy hits the mark.

Strengths

  • Smart, empowering opening paragraph:  “At the adidas Group we believe in open communication and you are encouraged to tell the world about your work and share your passion.” Adidas leans in to the fact that their employees are already active online, and encourages them to talk about their work.
  • Reminds employees that they’re responsible for their content, and that posts online are essentially permanent.  “You are personally responsible for the content you publish on blogs, wikis or any other form of user-generated media. Please remember that the internet never forgets.”
  • Provides examples! This helps employees envision the downsides. “Think about consequences. Imagine you are sitting in a sales meeting and your client brings out a printout of a colleague's post that states that the product you were about to sell "completely sucks". Talk about a tough pitch.”
  • We love this simple reminder: “With all the blogging and interacting, don't forget your daily job...” No need to prohibit social media usage or threaten in anyway.

Weaknesses

  • We’d like to see guidance on how to handle specific situations where a general employee probably shouldn’t intervene, such as customer complaints and PR crises. This language would also include directions on which team to contact.

Adobe Social Media Policy

Adobe keeps it even shorter than Adidas. We suspect Adobe has more to say on social media in private, internal documents.

Adobe’s Social Media Policy
Adobe's Social Media Policy

But in this short public-facing policy, Adobe touches on social media roles without getting into too much detail.

Strengths

  • Clear distinction between official and unofficial social media posting. “Whether through social media or other forms of public speaking, you may not represent that you are speaking on behalf of Adobe unless you are authorized to do so by Adobe Public Relations.”
  • Tying behavior back to a company’s principles and values is a strong move. Those principles shouldn’t just be lip service, so now is a good time to lean on them. “If you engage in social media, you are expected to protect Adobe’s brand always and adhere to Adobe’s key social principles of being authentic, involved, responsible, and respectful.”

Weaknesses

  • For a policy that repeatedly distinguishes between official and unofficial roles, it’s surprising to see a lack of sample disclaimer language (e.g. “Views expressed are my own”) that employees can use.
  • Nothing around how to handle crises and conflict.
  • We’d like to see more enthusiasm around encouraging employees to participate online. We do realize, however, that there may be additional language we’re not seeing in an internal document.
  • In general, there are details missing that could’ve been broken down into more concrete, specific bullets. (See Best Buy, below, for how to achieve this.)

Best Buy Social Media Policy

Best Buy is the first company on this list with an extensive retail employee population. These employees talk to customers every day, all day long.

In effect, Best Buy’s policy covers all scenarios where a Best Buy employee speaks, whether it’s online or in person, on official or unofficial channels, on the clock or off it.

So how does Buy Buy tie together all of these situations? Read on…

Strengths

  • One of our favorite intros to could have ended up as an overly complicated social media policy: “Guidelines for functioning in an electronic world are the same as the values, ethics and confidentiality policies employees are expected to live every day, whether you’re Tweeting, talking with customers or chatting over the neighbor’s fence. Remember, your responsibility to Best Buy doesn’t end when you are off the clock. For that reason, this policy applies to both company sponsored social media and personal use as it relates to Best Buy.”
  • Clear Do’s and Don’ts. We even like that the latter are phrased as “What You Should Never Disclose”, which is more specific and clearer than a plain old “Don’t.”
Best Buy’s Social Media Policy contains a variation of the typical Do’s and Don’ts structure
Best Buy’s Social Media Policy contains a variation of the typical Do’s and Don’ts structure
  • The policy is broken down into small, bite-size bullet points. This makes it easier to read, while enabling the social media policy to cover a number of considerations. All without losing the reader.
  • Simple language a non-lawyer can understand. “Basically, if you find yourself wondering if you can talk about something you learned at work -- don’t.”

Weaknesses

  • Best Buy is a retailer, so it’s natural that there will be a lot of reviews about the products Best Buy sells, the in-store experience, and so on. What should employees do when coming across negative or hostile reviews? Who should they contact?
  • Best Buy lists “Get fired” as a possible outcome if employees ignore the social media guidelines. Generally, we don’t like when policies resort to threats (veiled or otherwise). It can contribute to a culture of fear. However, we do understand that some of Best Buy’s employees are teenagers, so the company felt compelled to be explicit here.

Coca-Cola Social Media Principles

Coca-Cola has one of the longer and denser social media policies on this list. And we’re torn about it.

Coca-Cola Social Media Principles in all their glory
Coca-Cola Social Media Principles in all their glory

On the one hand, we like its descriptions and thoroughness.

On the other hand, it could be shorter and better organized.

Strengths

  • Coca-Cola’s social media policy embraces employee involvement online from the get-go. The opening paragraph includes the following: “These Online Social Media Principles have been developed to help empower our associates to participate in this new frontier of marketing and communications, represent our Company, and share the optimistic and positive spirits of our brands.”
  • The policy calls out different groups and provides specific advice to each. For instance, for “Online Spokespeople,” the policy says: “All associates who wish to officially represent the Company online must complete the Social Media Certification Program prior to beginning or continuing these activities.”
  • Clear guidance on how to handle online criticism, including contact information: “You may come across negative or disparaging posts about the Company or its brands, or see third parties trying to spark negative conversations. Unless you are a certified online spokesperson, avoid the temptation to react yourself. Pass the post(s) along to our official in‐market spokespersons who are trained to address such comments, at online.relations@na.ko.com.”

Weaknesses

  • As you can see from the above image, three dense pages of text is a lot. You risk being so thorough that people don’t read the policy.
Social media policies are often referenced in a moment of uncertainty or confusion. Make it easy for your employees to quickly determine how they should proceed. Short and concise documents help greatly in this regard.
  • While we like when companies draw a connection between social media policies and company values or principles, Coca-Cola’s policy can be confusing at times. We would have avoided the word “principles,” as it sounds too much like official company values. Simply using “Guidelines” or “Do’s and Don’ts” would work fine here.
  • There is also a lot of overlap between several different lists of values and principles. For example, the policy mentions “responsibility” for one’s actions multiple times.  Our take? If you break out your policy by employee type, then each section should focus on the differences or need-to-know items that pertain to that particular employee type rather than reiterating what’s already been said.

Dell Social Media Policy

Dell is a good example of how a social media policy is just one piece of the social media puzzle for employees.

It’s thorough on its own, but its strength lies in the supporting elements.

Strengths

  • The policy acknowledges that it’s just a starting point: “This policy is the first step, not the last, on your social media journey.”
  • How do we know they mean that? Here’s the very next sentence: “If you're interested in social media, whether personally or professionally, you should look into our Social Media and Communities University (SMaC U) classes.” Training and ongoing personal development are a great tool for any social media policy or program.
  • Contact info is provided, further supporting the policy: “If you have any questions about these principles, this policy or social media in general, please email Social@dell.com.”
  • They provide one of the best litmus tests we know of for determining whether a post is appropriate: “And always remember that anything posted in social media can go viral, no matter what your privacy settings may be, so be sure you’re only posting content you would feel comfortable showing up in your boss’ inbox, your coworker’s Twitter feed, or the front page of a major news site.”

Weaknesses

  • Again, we’re not big fans of reminding employees of their potential termination if they run afoul of The Rules:  “If you don't follow the principles laid out below when engaging in social media you could face serious consequences up to termination in accordance with the laws of the country where you are employed. Nobody wants that to happen though, so read over this policy and make sure you understand it.”
  • We prefer to include guidelines on how to handle online conflict or crises. (To be fair, this policy does make a suggestion, even if it’s a bit general:  “If you aren't an authority on a subject, send someone to the expert rather than responding yourself.”)

ESPN Social Media Guidelines

ESPN is an outlier from the rest of this list. That’s because many of its employees are journalists who are paid to report the news in sports.

The challenge is that some of them are also paid to entertain and opine.

Given that sports do not exist in a vacuum, but rather, an often political and partisan real world, ESPN’s employees are bound to opine in ways that are…political. You can understand the challenge. (If you’re a sports fan or just plain curious, here’s an excellent breakdown on exactly this challenge at ESPN.)

Strengths

  • Even though the policy is a long-ish 2.5 pages, it feels shorter. This is a testament to breaking up social media policies into smaller bullet points.
  • We’re a fan of quick and dirty litmus tests like this one: “Simple rule: If you wouldn't say it on the air or write it in a column, don't post it on any social network.”

Weaknesses

  • At times, ESPN’s policy reads less like a social media policy and more like a Journalism 101 pamphlet: “News reports should be accurate, appropriately sourced and approved through normal editorial channels. Original news reports should not include statements of support, opposition or partisanship related to any social issue, political position, candidate or office holder.”
  • This feels out of place and unnecessary: “ESPN’s focus is sports. While we acknowledge that our employees have interests beyond sports, it is essential that we not compromise our authority as the worldwide leader in sports coverage.”
  • In general, this social media policy feels like it’s talking about something bigger than social media. It feels like it’s trying to thread the needle between journalism and entertainment. Between objectivity and subjectivity. Between a unified voice and a collection of personalities. Unfortunately, a humble two-page social media policy is not an effective forum for such an existential, nuanced discussion.

Edmunds Social Media Guidelines

One of the most creative social media policies we’ve seen is Edmunds’.

It’s unique and eye-catching. And as with any good social media policy, it keeps the reader engaged.

Edmunds’ Social Media Guidelines take a playful approach
Edmunds’ Social Media Guidelines take a playful approach

Strengths

  • Formatting is playful and visually appealing. We also like the “road” that winds back and forth from guideline to guideline. We found ourselves following it as we read along.
  • Plenty of Do’s to balance out the Don’ts. It even looks like some of the the Do’s get one color while the Don’ts get another, for easier reading and emphasis.
  • The wording is thematically consistent with Edmunds’ business (car buying). It’s the “Rules of the Road”, where you “Drive Smart” and “Respect Your Fellow Drivers.”
  • Email address provided for questions and advice. In multiple places!
  • Employee advocacy embraced from the very beginning of the document: “It’s our hope that Edmunds.com’s employees will embrace social media as a way to reach out and empower consumers looking for help with all their automotive needs. Each of us understands the many great tools Edmunds.com has to offer and how together we can help solve real-world problems every day.”
  • Realistic and honest: “Be genuine, personable and relatable in your conversations - people want to talk to people, not someone making a ‘pitch.’”

Weaknesses

  • If we had to nitpick, you could probably point to a couple areas of overlap that could be trimmed down or combined into one box. For example: “Always exercise good judgment and common sense” is very similar in spirit to “If something you’re about to publish makes you stop and think, then you probably shouldn’t publish it.”

FedEx Social Media Guidelines

With nearly half a million employees worldwide affiliated with its brand, FedEx’s scale poses a challenge and an opportunity for its social media policy.

It’s to FedEx’s credit that they can create one document that hits all the main points without much fuss. Though there are areas for improvement, as you’ll see.

Strengths

  • Q&As are a great way to illustrate a point, and FedEx makes effective use of them throughout their social media policy
FedEx Social Media Guidelines include helpful Q&A’s
FedEx Social Media Guidelines include helpful Q&A’s
  • Clear directions for handling conflict, along with contact information: “FedEx has a staff of individuals who monitor social media and are trained to respond to customer service or other complaints on social media. Let the FedEx social media team respond to the complaint or, if you believe they are not aware of the complaint, report it at socialmedia@fedex.com.”
  • Call us suckers for graphics and callouts, but we like the visual elements in this policy:
FedEx Social Media Guidelines include visual elements that break up the text nicely
FedEx Social Media Guidelines include visual elements that break up the text nicely

Weaknesses

  • At nearly 4 pages, this is a lengthy social media policy. The various elements we highlighted above do make it feel shorter, however.
  • The policy opens with a long list of social media sites. But new social media sites pop up every year, so this list is already outdated (TikTok anyone?): “These Guidelines provide employees with a summary of FedEx’s policies and guidance that apply to personal participation and comments on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, QZone, VK, YouTube, Reddit, Snapchat, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, blogs and wikis.”
  • We don’t like policies that preclude employees from writing recommendations online for fellow coworkers. It may feel like it’s helping with retention, but in the long run it’s bad for your employer brand and feels out of touch with today’s increasingly social workforce : “As a FedEx manager you may not write a social media recommendation if the basis for your knowledge is their work for you at FedEx.”
  • With a workforce that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, FedEx doesn’t openly encourage employees to participate online. It fails to capitalize on what is a massive opportunity for employee advocacy.

Ford Motor Company Digital Participation Guidelines

Another iconic brand, another social media policy meant to protect that brand.

Ford’s “digital participation guidelines” (a touch outdated as a phrase) get the job done. We like this policy’s brevity and simple layout.

Strengths

Ford’s Digital Participation Guidelines has clear, simple formatting
Ford’s Digital Participation Guidelines has clear, simple formatting
  • One page. Simple layout. Individual blocks represent different rules. Clear, bold takeaways for each rule. Put it this way: if you only read the bold blue headers in each box, you’d still get the gist of Ford’s social media policy.
  • Good way to communicate just how public social media really is:  “Many eyes may fall upon your words, including those of reporters, consumers, your manager and the competition. Assume that all of these people will be reading every post, no matter how obscure or secure the site to which you are posting may seem.”
  • One of the first examples in this list of a social media policy suggesting simply withdrawing from an online conflict: “Acknowledge differences of opinion. Respectfully withdraw from discussions that go off topic or become profane.”
  • We like this crowdsourcing-related bit: “If anyone has a new idea for the Company, refer them to “Your Ideas” on The Ford Story.”

Weaknesses

  • We’re probably looking at an outdated copy of Ford’s social media policy, but it’s definitely dated. From the social media logos at the top to some of the formatting, it could use a refresh.
  • As with some of the other policies here, there’s a missed opportunity to get employees involved in advocating for the brand online. We’d like to see language along the lines of: “We encourage your participation on social media and welcome your support of the Ford Motor Company! As a Ford employee, your unique and trusted voice helps to build the Ford brand.”

General Motors Social Media Policy

General Motors (GM) has an odd situation with their social media policy.

When we first saw their policy, we thought, “Wow - they really do want to empower their employees to be active on social media!”

But we dug deeper, including looking at their “full” policy. And we found out things were not quite as rosy as we thought.

Strengths

  • The condensed version of GM’s social media policy is elegant in its simplicity. Just nine bullets, each with only a couple sentences or so of elaboration.
  • Clear guidance and contact information on reporting issues or asking questions.
  • There’s an employee advocacy program in place, which we applaud. However…

Weaknesses

  • GM explicitly prohibits the very thing that makes employee advocacy so powerful: the employee’s unique voice! GM allows employees to share pre-approved content only if it’s “shared verbatim.”
  • Even worse than that? Employees are told “do not add substantive content or commentary” to the pre-approved content they’re given to share. GM runs an employee advocacy program, but only as long as employees suppress their comments and parrot the same pre-packaged commentary as every other employee. To us, that’s not fully employee advocacy.
Employee advocacy works best when you provide smart and relevant content (and even a suggested comment) to your employee advocates, and let employees take it from there. If you want to prohibit employees from adding their own comment to whatever content you supply them, then your company may not be a good fit for employee advocacy.

IBM Social Computing Guidelines

Ignoring the quirky name for a moment - IBM’s social media policy is one of the better ones we’ve seen.

It exhibits team-spirit and emphasizes the trust the company places in its employees.

Strengths

  • We counted 40 (!) instances of the word “we” in this policy. That’s a breath of fresh air for a document that companies fill with legal-speak and scary language.
IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines and the power of “we”
IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines and the power of “we”
  • IBM provides examples of social computing that’s covered in this policy. The examples include IBM’s enterprise tools (e.g. Slack), traditional social networks, communications platforms (e.g. Whatsapp), and discussion forums (Reddit) to name a few. That shows an extra level of corporate savvy when it comes to understanding the world of social media.
  • The policy leads by tying itself back to the company’s broader policies and guidelines: “As IBMers, we comply with the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines, IBM’s Corporate Instructions, and all internal IBM policies, as well as the education relating to Cybersecurity, Privacy, and Bullying & Sexual Harassment. Our Social Computing Guidelines should be applied together with these policies and guidelines.”
  • Respect for the individual outside of work (though paired with a thinly veiled warning?): “In general, what we do in our own time is our business. However, activities in, or outside of, work that adversely affect IBM job performance, the performance of others, or IBM's business interests will be reviewed in line with our company policy.”
  • The policy ties back to a core value that is actually applicable here, and doesn’t feel like corporate speak: “One of IBM’s core values is ‘trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.’ As a company, IBM trusts—and expects—IBMers to exercise personal responsibility whenever they participate in social computing.”

Weaknesses

  • If we had to nitpick, we’d start with quirky name “social computing”. It made us pause for a moment. We weren’t sure if it meant something beyond online communication tools, though the policy quickly clears that up.
  • We found a few of the bullets points around privacy and confidentiality to be redundant. They could probably be collapsed into one point. (Though proper legal counsel - which we certainly are not - may disagree.)

Intel Social Media Guidelines

Intel’s social media policy is a mixed bag.

There are some great parts, and some very nice simplicity.

But there are also some parts that feel like a team of lawyers had the document in their hands for too long.

Strengths

Intel’s Social Media Guidelines’ “3 Rules of Engagement”
Intel’s Social Media Guidelines’ “3 Rules of Engagement”
  • Effective simplification (and accompanying graphic) of the three rules of engagement employees should keep in mind.
  • Happy to see that Intel trusts its employees, and isn’t afraid to say so! “What do our policies mean? They mean that we trust you. We bring smart people into the Intel family and we expect you to make smart decisions. This means that you are both the person in the best position to tell the world why Intel is such an amazing place to be and the person best suited to protect Intel from harm.”
  • Human language like the following can go a long way to making your social media policy stick in employees’ minds: “Did you mess up? It happens. If you make a mistake, admit it immediately. Apologize if you need to. Be upfront, and correct the error as soon as possible.”

Weaknesses

  • Unfortunately, the social media policy is littered with talk of disclosure. As you can see in the image below, nearly 50% of the policy is dedicated to disclosing one’s relationship with Intel (often in the context of a paid sponsorship). While the topic of disclosure is a must-have for your social media policy, there’s so much of it here that it may be better to elaborate on it in a separate document - for example, “Disclosure Guidelines for Sponsored & Incentivized Social Media Practitioners.”
In red, the parts of Intel’s Social Media Guidelines related to disclosing one’s relationship with Intel
In red, the parts of Intel’s Social Media Guidelines related to disclosing one’s relationship with Intel
  • We found that there are too many different groups of people this document speaks to, including employees, contractors, contingent workers, agencies, social media practitioners, and so on. This often led to redundant language (e.g. multiple instances of “Stick to your area of expertise” and “Write what you know”).
Find yourself repeating the same language in different sections of your social media policy? See if you can consolidate common language near the top of the document as "General Principles." Then, if you absolutely must include sections for different types of people, make sure each section includes new or unique information.

JPMorgan Chase Social Media Policy

While we don’t have JPMorgan Chase’s general global social media policy, we’ve cobbled together enough information from their “code of conduct” document (linked above; see pages 29-30) as well as their Global Social Media Policy for contingent workers.

JPMorgan Chase’s social media policy is fairly restrictive. Even by the financial services industry’s already tight standards.

If the ideal social media policy clarifies expectations while encouraging employees to participate online, then this policy is much closer to the other end of the spectrum.

Strengths

  • Makes expectations clear regarding who can and cannot speak online: “…you should not comment on or provide information related to our Company’s business or any subject matter related to your job responsibilities or expertise in public forums unless you are specifically authorized to do so.”

Weaknesses

  • “The financial services industry” is among things that employees cannot discuss online. That almost entirely precludes employee advocacy from happening.
  • There’s a no-referrals policy which is out of touch with today’s connected world, sees LinkedIn as a major threat, and damages JPMorgan Chase’s employer brand (as this article states, it’s a “strange thing to see happen in a sector that believes so strongly in free markets.”): “Your employment postings on internet sites and social media sites may include the fact that you work for JPMorgan Chase, your job title, a high level job description (e.g., no specific project/initiative details, no proprietary application or software names) and your general office location …don’t post, seek or provide recommendations or referrals by or of other employees…”

Massachusetts General Hospital Social Media Guidelines

Massachusetts General Hospital, or “Mass General”, is of course in the heavily regulated healthcare industry. As a handler of highly sensitive patient information, Mass General has to be cautious of what they share online.

But that doesn’t mean their employees can’t be active on social media.

Mass General does a fantastic job of observing healthcare regulations without letting them suffocate their social media marketing. And it starts with their social media policy.

Strengths

  • Good policies never live in a vacuum. Mass General is smart to connect the dots between this policy and the others the hospital has: “When using social media, be aware that existing hospital policies apply, in particular, those pertaining to patient privacy, Electronic Communications, Confidential Information, Standards of Behavior, Outside Contacts (Media, Law Enforcement and Regulators), Use of Hospital Name By External Organizations, Web Authoring, and Intellectual Property.”
  • Reminder that what you say online lives on forever: “Consider your content carefully...a posting on the Web lives forever. Be respectful and professional. A good rule of thumb is to post only something you would want your manager to see.”
  • The section “Guidelines for Official Mass General Use of Social Media” provides information that is actually new from what was said earlier in the policy, and specific to this section only. Nicely done.
  • At the top of the social media policy, there is a link to a presentation titled “Massachusetts General Hospital Social Media Resource Guide.” It’s a good read, although one that is more geared toward official social media practitioners and marketers at Mass General.
Massachusetts General Hospital’s Social Media Guidelines could be consolidated
Massachusetts General Hospital’s Social Media Guidelines could be consolidated

Weaknesses

  • It seems as if Mass General is open to multiple “official” accounts to be open at the hospital. They might be better off embracing an employee advocacy program, which doesn’t require standing up new accounts but instead taps into the millions of personal connections and followers already present in their employees’ networks.
  • Some of the points in the “Code of Ethics” section are redundant with what’s said before, such as: “Be clear about your role at Mass General.” We’d  suggest combining the points from this section into the more general “Rules of the Road” section above for a cleaner, more streamlined policy.
  • While we’re at it, why not then combine the “Content” section with the “Rules of the Road” section?

Mayo Clinic Social Media Guidelines

Mayo Clinic, just like Massachusetts General Hospital above, has to work within a restrictive regulatory environment.

That’s why we like that Mayo Clinic doesn’t differ all that much from the less regulated companies in the social media world.

In fact, they even have a quite novel approach to explaining their guidelines - keep reading.

Strengths

  • The policy provides a rationale for each guideline. Not only does a rationale help employees understand the spirit of a rule, but sometimes it can be entertaining to read how the guideline got here in the first place. For instance, the rationale behind writing for yourself and not on behalf of Mayo Clinic can be traced back to before the dawn of modern technology: “During pre-Internet days, staff were not permitted to include their Mayo Clinic affiliation when writing newspaper letters-to-the-editor. For example, the correct sign-off would not be ‘Lee Aase, Mayo Clinic’ but ‘Lee Aase, Austin, MN’ because borrowing Mayo’s credibility to make my point would be misappropriation.”
  • Concise and easy to read. We tend to prefer numbered-lists or bullet-lists of guidelines like the Mayo Clinic’s.
  • As we saw with Mass General, very smart to tie the policy back to other, “primary” policies: “Among the policies most pertinent to this discussion are those concerning patient confidentiality, government affairs, mutual respect, political activity, Computer, E-mail & Internet Use, the Mayo Clinic Integrity Program, photography and video, and release of patient information to media.”

Weaknesses

  • The social media policy does not explicitly encourage employees to participate as ambassadors, and that’s a missed opportunity. Employee advocacy is a natural extension of a social media policy - the latter gives you the guardrails and guidance necessary for the former.

Pfizer Social Media Policy

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer comes in with what we’d describe as a conservative, corporate social media policy. Given the industry they’re in, we get it.

Does it cover the most of the basics? Yes.

Will it get many employees excited to talk about Pfizer in any meaningful way? No.

Strengths

  • It sounds a little awkward and stilted, but Pfizer talks about the user-generated content up front: “The hallmarks of social media are user-generated content and interaction.” We’re not entirely sure how Pfizer meant it, but we’ll give give them the benefit of the doubt and call it a strength.

Weaknesses

  • There isn’t much (any?) humor or lightheartedness in this social media policy. It feels like Legal owned this document from start to finish. For instance, we’d be hard-pressed to find a social media expert who would put the following in their policy in this day and age: “‘Social media’ are digital technologies and practices that enable people to create and share content, opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives.”
  • Employees are to “refer media inquires to Global Media Relations” but there’s no contact info provided. Same with “report adverse events found on the Internet or in social media to the appropriate contact; and ask first, post later.” Whom should employees report to? Whom should they ask?
  • According to this sentence, employee advocacy appears to be discouraged: “Personal posts on external social media that include more than a neutral, passing reference to Pfizer products are prohibited.”
We are not lawyers, but we often work with them. And we know that lawyers tend to err on the side of less risk. Our business suggestion? You as a marketing or social media expert should own the document and present the drafts, then let legal comment. Not the other way around.

Reuters Social Media Guidance

In theory, journalists have a responsibility to be impartial when they report. So their organizations’ social media policies tend to be especially thoughtful around how their employees conduct themselves online.

Reuters is no exception. As you’ll see, we’ve taken some of the longer, more eloquent passages and included them below.

Strengths

  • It fascinating to see the balance that journalists must strike online. And it’s refreshing to see Reuters explain that tension (which has no easy solution), and then put their trust in their employees: “When writing as Reuters journalists, whether for the file or online, we are guided 24 hours a day by the ethics of our organization as embodied in the Code of Conduct and the Trust Principles, which require us to be responsible, fair and impartial. On the one hand, these standards can be compromised whenever we ‘like’ a post or adopt a ‘badge’ or ‘join’ a cause, particularly when the subject is relevant or even tangential to our beat. On the other hand, it might be necessary to ‘like,’ ‘join’ or adopt a ‘badge’ to get the news…One of the distinguishing features of Reuters is the trust invested in the judgment of its journalists – and we will continue to look to our journalists to use their common sense in dealing with these new challenges.”
  • One of the best ways we’ve seen a company ask its employees to think twice before posting: “We expect our journalists to reach conclusions through reporting, but they must also demonstrate the intellectual discipline to keep their conclusions susceptible to further reporting, which requires a posture of open-mindedness and enlightened skepticism. This is difficult to demonstrate in the social networks’ short forms and under the pressure of thinking-writing-posting in real time. But maintaining this posture is critical to our credibility and reputation as journalists. When in doubt about a post, tweet or other action on social networks, we must enlist a second pair of eyes, even at the cost of some delay.”
  • Good reminder of the potential permanence of what’s said online: “The tension is clear: Social networks encourage fast, constant, brief communications; journalism calls for communication preceded by fact-finding and thoughtful consideration. Journalism has many ‘unsend’ buttons, including editors. Social networks have none.”

Weaknesses

Reuters’ Social Media Guidance is a bit long
Reuters’ Social Media Guidance is a bit long
  • At roughly 1,400 words, this social media policy is a bit lengthy.
  • Formatting doesn’t lend itself to a quick read or easy referencing later on. We’d prefer to see the key themes of each paragraph broken out as subheaders. At the same time, we do understand that Reuters is probably sticking to a conservative, journalistic style guide here.
  • No listed contact information for questions or to report issues. The only guidance is to “talk to colleagues, your editor or your supervisor.”

State of Utah Social Media Guidelines

We never thought we’d say this about a stuffy ol’ state government.

But the State of Utah’s social media policy is easily one of the best we’ve ever seen.

It manages to pull off this amazing trick where it genuinely encourages employee advocacy, without ever calling it that. The writing is inspirational and treats its employees as trusted humans; there isn’t much babysitting, policing, or fear-mongering here to speak of.

In a word: amazing.

Well done, Utah!

Strengths

  • Open and encouraging! At a high level, this social media policy is loaded with examples and details on how to engage online (indicated by green boxes in screenshot below). It might be the most positive social media policy we’ve ever seen.
In green, the parts of Utah’s Social Media Guidelines that encourage employees to participate
In green, the parts of Utah’s Social Media Guidelines that encourage employees to participate
  • Excellent explanation of how social media can benefit employees and the state government: “Emerging platforms for online collaboration are changing the way we work, and offer new ways to engage with customers, colleagues, and the world at large. It is a new model for interaction and social computing that can help employees to build stronger, more successful citizen and agency business relationships. It is a way for State employees to take part in national and global conversations related to the work we are doing at the State.”
  • Explicitly encouraging employees is always a good idea: “The goal of the Department of Technology Services (DTS) is not to say ‘No’ to social media websites and block them, but to say ‘Yes’, with effective and appropriate information assurance, security, and privacy controls.”
  • We love the emphasis on providing a unique perspective. That freedom gets employees excited, and leads to meaningful and memorable conversation online: “Stick to your area of expertise and provide unique, individual perspectives on what is going on at the State, and in other larger contexts.”
  • We’re (very pleasantly!) surprised that any entity, let alone a governmental one, would say the following: “Talk to your readers like you would talk to people in professional situations. Avoid overly ‘composed’ language. Bring in your own personality and say what is on your mind. Consider content that is open-ended and invites response. Encourage comments. Broaden the conversation by citing others who are commenting about the same topic and allowing your content to be shared or syndicated.”
  • Again, ties in social media and the stakeholders you can positively impact. Amazing stuff right here: “Our activities are focused on providing services and on government innovation that benefits citizens and stakeholders. Share with the participants the things we are learning and doing, and open up social media channels to learn from others.”

Weaknesses

  • The description of social media comes across as outdated and a little confusing: “Social media is content created by people using highly accessible Internet based publishing technologies.”
  • Referencing something specific in a separate document which also happens to live online? Make your employees’ lives easier and link to it. “Ensure that your participation is consistent with the provisions of Utah Administrative Rule R477-9. Employee Conduct.”
  • A tad long at 1,400 words. But it’s so full of positivity and encouragement that we don’t really mind.

US Air Force Social Media Guidelines

Another government organization, another strong social media policy!

The US Air Force understands the power of social media to inform opinions.

Perhaps even more important than shaping opinions, though, is the ability for social media to keep people connected. And we don’t mean that in an abstract, philosophical way.

We mean it the most literal sense - as in keeping an Airman connected with his or her family back home.

You might think it’s cheesy or out of place to include something so emotional in a social media policy. But it’s precisely because connection is so important that it deserves its place in this particular social media policy.

Strengths

  • Crystal clear evidence that the US Air Force understands the authenticity and recruiting value their Airmen bring to the table: “You are encouraged to use social media to share your experiences as an Airman…Whether you’re sharing information with just your close friends and family or sharing it with the world in an online video or a blog, you’re informing people on what it’s like to be a part of the world’s greatest Air Force.”
  • The US Air Force’s social media guidelines touch on something that’s quite unique among social media policies: it’s not easy being an Airman. So it’s interesting to see the Air Force use the social media policy in a strategic way, to help their Airmen feel connected: “Your stories might inspire someone to join the Air Force, support the Air Force, comfort a parent or spouse, and improve morale or correct inaccurate information. Air Force families may want to use social media to keep in touch with deployed Airmen, network with other military families and share stories on social media. People can feel comfortable about using social media and letting their Airmen use social media. It’s one of the many tools available to communicate information, and it has a value-added capability of promoting interaction.”
  • Provide a specific social media contact (and it’s one of the longest email addresses we’ve seen!): “If you would like more information about using social media, contact the SAF/PAI Digital Media team at usaf.pentagon.saf-pa.mbx.air-force-social-media@mail.mil”
  • When your organization has unique needs, acknowledge them. Bake them into your social media policy. The Air Force does a good job of this when it comes to Airmen’s families:
The US Air Force’s Social Media Guidelines have specific guidance for the families of Airmen
The US Air Force’s Social Media Guidelines have specific guidance for the families of Airmen

Weaknesses

  • There are quite a few supplemental policies referenced without any direct links for each specific policy. If a separate document is important for the reader and you’d like them to read it, then link to it when possible.
The US Air Force’s Social Media Guidelines could use some helpful hyperlinks
The US Air Force’s Social Media Guidelines could use some helpful hyperlinks
It's your responsibility to create an engaging, easy-to-use social media policy as much as it is for employees to read it. So go the extra mile and do the little things, like linking out to documents you reference. Your readers will appreciate it. And they'll be more likely to read your policy!

Walmart Social Media Guidelines

Walmart’s social media policy is…odd.

It’s odd because at various points in the policy, it doesn’t distinguish between employees and customers. In fact, the policy’s language appears to put some separation between associates and Walmart itself.

With over 2 million employees around the world who can help drive the conversation of Walmart online, that’s a questionable decision.

It just might be the biggest missed opportunity in the history of corporate social media and employee advocacy.

Strengths

  • Clear guidance on how to handle (or not handle) criticism online: “Remember that we have a dedicated team tasked with responding to customer inquiries or criticism. Our official Walmart social team is responsible for engaging customers through our page. To avoid confusion, we ask that you not attempt to respond to customer inquiries or comments directed specifically to the Company or asking for an official Company response on this site.”

Weaknesses

  • It’s unclear who the intended audience is for this policy. Customers? Employees? Other “stakeholders”? And why would customers even bother to look up Walmart’s social media policy? The policy has a general feeling of confusion from the get-go.
  • One of the strangest guidelines we’ve seen in a social media policy (we had to read this a few times to make sure we weren’t missing something): “We are happy to help our customers and associates through Twitter and look forward to hearing from you.” So who exactly is “We”? Are employees not considered part of the company?
  • It’s not often you see labor relations embedded in a social media policy. Walmart, with its long history of anti-union efforts and questionable labor practices, appears to use their social media policy as an attempt to redirect complaints from external, public forums like social media to internal, private channels they control: “Consider using company established channels for job-specific issues. While we encourage associates to join our Facebook and Instagram communities and participate in conversations with our customers and other users, we encourage you to direct your complaints or concerns about your job or working environment to your store management team using the established Open Door Process or WalmartOne.com.”
  • Generally, the policy does not explicitly encourage employees to participate on social media. Given the millions-strong workforce at Walmart, that’s a missed opportunity.

Xerox Social Media Guidelines

Xerox’s social media policy is in two formats: text and video.

After watching Xerox’s video, we were reminded of the power of a short, simple video to communicate a topic that’s typically seen as “boring.”

It also helps that the content of their policy is all-around solid.

Xerox social media policy video.jpg

Strengths

  • We really like the video version of their social media policy. Especially when it’s hosted on a social media site, like YouTube! (It’s also embedded on the social media policy page.) Very meta and very smart of Xerox. A great example of how to go the extra mile with your social media policy to ensure that as many people read it as possible.
  • Of course, format is only one part of the equation. The content of the social media policy hits the basics: use good judgment, be transparent, and so on.
  • Supportive of employees actually using social media: “We’re big believers in the power of this type of open exchange and learning, especially as it relates to our business and helping folks improve the way they connect and work.” The first 40 seconds of the video also emphasize the value of sharing.
  • The policy has a savvy, natural way of balancing Do’s and Don’ts, like the following: “If you’re a leader in your field, we encourage you to share insights related to your work with others, just remember to validate your claims with supporting, factual information.”

Weaknesses

  • Interesting to see a form for submitting questions. We’d also like to see a dedicated email address. Some people might be more comfortable sending an email than filling out an online form.

*******

Well, well! Look who finished Chapter 2!

Not only do you have a grasp of the basics that go into a social media policy, you can now break down the strengths and weaknesses of any social media policy out there!

That’s a powerful skill you’ve developed, which you can use to create a new social media policy from scratch, improve an existing policy, or edit a template.

Speaking of templates…it’s time for Chapter 3: Social Media Policy Templates to Get You Started.

Let’s go!

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