As reputation management and public persona become increasingly tied to social media presence, many are beginning to consider implementing a company-wide social media policy. We reached out to our readers to ask if their firms have a social media policy in place.

We recently hosted a survey on our LinkedIn page to determine how many people worked at a firm with a social media policy in place for employee content, and the results showed that whilst the majority (66%) had a social media policy in place, a significant portion (34%) did not have any policies in place. The subject has increasingly been brought up by communications experts, reputation management consultants and social media strategists, many of whom have differing views on this issue. However, a policy can be key to protect your brand’s reputation

First and foremost, a social media policy should support the business. This can be done both by seeking to limit potential risks to the firm, and by instructing employees on how they can promote themselves and their firm on social media. When it comes to mitigating risk, audience is one of the main deciding factors: some firms will need to consider the fact that they have clients from across the political or social spectrum, and employees must therefore maintain neutrality to avoid offending potential or actual clients. Furthermore, in an time of increased legislation around data protection it is vital that your employees have received training on compliance law pertaining to social media, as part of a social media strategy designed to ensure the safety of the business.

It is also important to ensure that your policy doesn’t come across as intrusive to your employees and that they are able to express their opinions online. Some firms argue that having industry-leading staff that freely share ideas and interact with the firm’s ecosystem can be a huge PR coup; even if the subject matter is contentious. In fact, often it is the most contentious and highly debated content that draws the highest engagement from the ecosystem, as partners and clients discuss the issue – all on your social media thread.

However, striking a balance is key. For example, you can have a social media policy with information on how to avoid compliance issues, and best practise tips for when referring to client work on social media – all without significantly impinging on your employees' ability to freely discuss concepts. Having protocols and policies in place to deal with contentious posts and their authors are ubiquitous and are an example of having social media policies in place to deal with problematic content, whilst still allowing your employees the ability to freely discuss topics.

In summation, all firms should certainly have a social media policy. When it comes to posting content online, it’s important that your employees understand the reputational effects of the content that they’re posting.

What we can say with certainty is that the topic of reputation management, and how best to manage ‘divisive and contentious’ posts will only increase in importance as social media becomes the increasingly dominant channel for both B2B and B2C comms; a topic that will – ironically – likely spawn a number of divisive and contentious posts.