#FreeTheTopsham1 – Why you need a social media policy

A recent Twitter campaign, #FreeTheTopsham1, started by an Exeter councillor highlights the need for all businesses to have a social media policy in place for employees.

#FreeTheTopsham1 – The Story

A Topsham based PCSO, tweeting as @TopshamPolice, was recently asked by her employer, Devon & Cornwall Police, to stop tweeting and undertake some training following complaints by the University of Exeter Students’ Guild about some of her tweets. The Guild argued that the tone and content of her tweets (e.g. “Off to work in an hour – more student mayhem”) was reinforcing the negative stereotypes about students.

On hearing the news an Exeter Labour councillor started a Twitter campaign supporting the PCSO – #FreeTheTopsham1 – which was picked up by the local media and generated a fair amount of buzz on Twitter.

Almost two weeks later, following a meeting with her supervisor where they discussed “the pitfalls of social media”, @TopshamPolice started tweeting again.

Whatever your views on the nature of the tweets and the fallout that ensued, the issue here is that @TopshamPolice was tweeting as an employee of Devon & Cornwall Police so any tweets and views she expressed were by association linked to her employer.

Social Media Policy for Employees

To avoid incidents such as this every business should have a clear social media policy in place which is communicated to all employees and regularly updated. A social media policy should include:

  • Your expectations about the use of social media for your business.
  • Clear guidelines for employees on what they can and cannot say about the company.

However, a policy alone is insufficient (in a comment to the media Devon & Cornwall Police said that: “The force has a social media policy which gives clear guidance to all staff on what is deemed appropriate). As an employer you should also:

  • Provide training to your employees on the appropriate use of social media.
  • Ask employees who are tweeting or blogging on their own accord about their industry or profession to put a note on their profile to say that the views expressed are their own and don’t reflect the business’ own views.
  • Monitor your company’s social media accounts.

Organisations of all sizes, across all sectors, should seriously consider developing a formal social media policy. Clear guidelines and active policing (pardon the pun) will ensure a healthy use of social media and make it become an asset to your business rather than a PR disaster waiting to happen.

If you need any help with your social media please contact us at Straight Marketing. We can assist with strategy, policies and procedure and implementation to help you make the most of this marketing medium.

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