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Trends & Insights | Blog

In light of Lineker: why every company should have a staff social media policy

March 14, 2023


Lineker has been in the headlines for criticising the UK government’s migrant policy, which resulted in the BBC taking him ‘off air’ last we

Drew Benvie

CEO & Founder

If ever there was a time for companies to check and update their staff social media policy, it’s now. Not just because of the evolving social media landscape, or because some organisations are planning to ban the use of TikTok, and not even because it’s always time to BeReal when you’re in the middle of something important. No, the main reason is down to Gary Lineker and whether he was entitled to share personal political views on his Twitter account last week.

Lineker has been in the headlines for criticising the UK government’s migrant policy, which resulted in the BBC taking him ‘off air’ last weekend and triggered a mass walkout of fellow commentators, pundits and presenters. The BBC’s flagship sports programme, Match of the Day, aired with no presenters in the studio and a host of other BBC football TV and radio shows had to be cancelled.

This week, we saw the BBC back down, and successful talks with Gary Lineker mean the former England striker will be returning to screens this week. Importantly, though, a new independent review of BBC social media guidelines will now take place to remove any ambiguity over what is acceptable for the organisation’s staff and talent to talk about online.

What has quickly become apparent is that there should be no blurred lines in a company’s social media policy. You might not fall foul the same way as the BBC and Lineker have, but every company has the potential to get into hot water if someone says the wrong thing in the wrong place. And with 4.6 billion active social media users in the world, everyone would benefit from getting their house in order.

The blurred lines narrative is key here, and has cropped up repeatedly in the commentary of this BBC Lineker story. There can be no room for ambiguity when it comes to a social media policy;  at best, it can mean limited use of social media through fear of breaking the guidelines, but at worst can bring a brand into disrepute and result in lost business.

So what should be in a good staff social media policy? Here we share five key tips for every brand to consider.

1. Define acceptable use

Most people use social media to share news about both their personal AND professional lives and it’s important that the content reflects the values and policies of their employer. In Lineker’s case there was, and still is, ambiguity about whether he is representing the BBC, given his employment as a freelancer. In most cases, employees will be expected to do nothing that could anger their employer or bring it into disrepute.

It can be useful for users to include ‘all views are my own’ on social profiles, but it doesn’t offer users a great deal of protection. Posts can still cause reputational harm to a company and carry legal implications for an individual if any comments or images are deemed to be offensive, harmful, or fall foul of libel laws. Help your staff to stay on the right side of the law and company policy with strong and clear guidance of what you deem to be acceptable.

2. Sharing news about your brand

It’s important that all staff know what company news and topics they can and can’t share externally. Define what is safe ground and what’s not. Many companies want their employees to help promote the brand in an authentic and positive way, but sometimes that can mean accidentally sharing confidential information, data intended for internal use only, or promotional content that is unlawful. While it’s important for staff to engage with company posts on social media, it’s also vital that brands spell out exactly what they allow their employees to say publicly and what they require them to keep private.

3. Provide safety advice

Most social media users aren’t aware of the vast array of privacy and security settings, so it’s important to educate staff in how they can protect themselves – and, in turn, the company. Employers should ensure their staff know how to carry out a sweep of their social media channels and make sure what’s private remains private. That might mean protecting family photos on Facebook, a contacts list on LinkedIn, or private tweets/DMs on Twitter.

It’s therefore vital that companies provide straightforward advice to employees on how they can access and stay abreast of privacy settings across all main platforms. It’s also advisable to explain how to hide social features, such as location sharing, and ensure employees set up two-factor authentication.

4. Know your customers

All staff should be mindful of their customers when posting on social media too. Whether a company’s customers are more conservative or liberal, it’s important to consider a wide range of views when publishing anything online. Employers can help their staff with clear advice on what is acceptable. Even when playing by the brand rules, it’s still possible to lose a customer by not being mindful of what they might think too.

5. Privacy and respect

Some employees are happy to share lots about their lives online, while others aren’t. Employers should create guidelines for how colleagues should interact with each other online, including privacy from being tagged in a message, included in a photograph, or appearing in a video. It is always best to seek consent in advance than have to apologise when the damage is done. In addition, it’s important to have clear rules on harassment and bullying on social media. What might seem like harmless fun to one person, may be embarrassing or insulting to another.

Personalised policy

A good social media policy takes into account the nature of your business, your workforce, customers and macroeconomic factors too. It also must be built around the social media platforms in use by your team, so lean more heavily on the ways one is used over another depending on the location, age and habits of your team.

If you would like help creating a comprehensive brand social media guidelines policy, email our team of experts at hello@battenhall.com.