May 28, 2019

The Importance of Implementing a Board Social Media Policy

 Like it or not, social media has a massive impact on business in both positive and negative ways. If your organization has yet to draft a social media policy for members, executives, and employees, you’re long overdue. Social media has become a hub for marketing, brand awareness, and transparent communication. On the flip side, in recent years, social media has also caused SEC investigations, liability issues, and reputational risk.

Forbes reports that roughly 60% of Fortune 500 CEOs are not active on social media. However, the desire for transparent communication via social media is shared by 86% of Americans. “It’s no longer safe for businesses to stay silent on their values, business decisions, and political and social stances,” says Forbes. “Young buyers, especially are using digital transparency as a measuring stick to identify the companies they want to purchase from- and those they don’t.”

So, how is it possible to get CEOs engaged in social media, use it to attract consumers, foster brand loyalty, all while mitigating risk? Organizations can start with a board social media policy that covers board member, executive, and employee presence on social media.

What to Include in a Board Social Media Policy

Social media policies create insurance for organizations both internally and externally. Although board members, executives, and employees are ultimately responsible for what they post, like, or share on social media, a board social media policy outlines exactly what the organization deems appropriate content and behavior for interaction.

Board social media policies provide clear guidelines and boundaries for all stakeholders. While violations are usually rare, it’s important for these policies to exist and cover critical elements.

BoardSource suggests that organizations create both an internal and external board social media policy. The internal policy should focus on a direction for staff, including executives and board members, and what is and is not appropriate to share on behalf of the organization. This should pertain to not only social media platforms but also personal blogs and websites. The internal policy should also outline consequences for violating the policy. The internal board social media policy should be included in all employee handbooks and board materials.

An external board social media policy should address users outside of the organization itself. This policy is for those people who interact with organizations on social media and outlines what is and isn’t appropriate to share. This external board social media policy should be shared publicly on the organization’s website and social channels.

When crafted properly, a board social media policy has the ability to make a positive and significant difference to an organization’s social presence.

Manage Brand Reputation and Mitigate Risk with a Board Social Media Policy

Social media has become a public outlet for both brand reputation and managing risk. In the past, organizations only needed to worry about a headline in a newspaper or a story on the evening news when a crisis would arise. Today, it only takes one unhappy stakeholder to share a “viral” post. For this reason, a board social media policy is critical.

Social media can make or break a brand reputation these days, so it’s important to outline how an organization should deal with a crisis on social media in its board social media policy. When a post does surface about the brand that seems to be gaining traction, the board social media policy should describe specific actions like responding quickly and acting fast to resolve the problem. Because the post itself was seen by the public, the response should also be public so the audience can see their transparent approach to customer service.

Ultimately, a perfectly crafted board social media policy will help the organization mitigate risk for unhappy customers and also executive and employee use of social media platforms. Last month, Tesla and the SEC came to a settlement over Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s errant behavior on Twitter. In February, the SEC asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt over his tweets regarding Tesla vehicle production.

As a result, Tesla amended their social media policy to “implement mandatory procedures and controls (i) providing oversight of all Elon Musk’s communications regarding the Company made in any format including, but not limited to, posts on social media…” This is one of the first legal violations for a company via social media and should be a warning for all organizations who have yet to define a board social media policy.

Channel Communication to the Public and Shareholders

As more consumers demand transparency from companies, a board social media policy should also encompass how a company will use social media to communicate with the public and shareholders.

Digital marketing, especially that in the social media world is a fast growing opportunity to keep the public engaged with brands. “In a 2018 survey, US-based chief marketing officers reported that digital marketing expenditures were growing at double-digit rates and predicted that spending on social media alone would capture nearly 25 percent of total marketing budgets by 2023,” says Chief Executive.

A board social media policy should outline how they present their brand to consumers and communicate success, changes in leadership, company news, and new product launches. Likewise, in times of crisis, social media is a transparent approach to addressing recalls, natural disasters, or making public statements.

Social media should be addressed as a critical component of every business’s best practices. “Beyond employee compliance, however, social networks may be reaching a point where their impact on corporate risk, reputations and operations can’t be ignored in the boardroom,” says Business Ethics. Crafting and implementing a board social media policy is the only way to properly address the impactful nature social media has on brand and risk.


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