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Think you don’t need a social media policy? Think again…

by Shelli Dallacqua

Meet Lindsey Stone. She is an employee at Living Independently Forever, Inc. (LIFE), and while on a work-paid trip to Arlington National Cemetery in October 2012, Ms. Stone had a co-worker, Jamie Schuh, take this picture of her disrespecting the Tomb of the Unknowns  and posted it to her personal Facebook page.

Edited version of the controversial Lindsey Stone Facebook photo. Ms. Stone is extending her middle finger in the original photo.


This picture has gone viral and the ramifications are staggering. There is now a petition calling for her resignation that is being passed around the world on as well as a Facebook page titled, Fire Lindsey Stone that has close to 7,000 followers and is growing daily. The Huffington Post just released an article about the photo as well. The backlash for her employer has forced them to post this disclaimer on their own Facebook page:

On Nov. 19 at approximately 6 p.m., we became aware that one of our employees had posted an offensive, inappropriate photograph on her personal Facebook page. The photo was taken at a national historic site in October by a fellow employee during a trip to Washington, D.C., attended by 40 residents and eight staff. The photo has since been removed from Facebook, and both employees have been placed on unpaid leave pending the results of an internal investigation.

This photograph in no way reflects the opinions or values of the LIFE organization, which holds our nation’s veterans in the highest regard. We are proud to have veterans serving on our staff and board of trustees, and we value their service. The men and women who have selflessly fought and sacrificed their lives to protect the rights and lives of Americans deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. We are acutely aware that this photo has done a disservice to veterans and we are deeply saddened that it was taken and shared in a public medium.

Ms. Stone’s actions reiterate the importance of social media policies in the workplace.  In this day and age of digital media, the liability of the actions of just one employee can reach well beyond their cubicle.

There are three basic aspects to protect your organization from the Lindsey Stones of the world:

  1. Have a social media policy in place
  2. Make sure your employees read and SIGN the policy and keep it current and on file.
  3. Enforce implementation of the policy to the full degree.

Social media policies are a fairly new concept for employers today and they can vary depending on your industry, but here are a few basic must-haves to get you started:

  1. Focus on the positive by explaining what IS allowed rather than what is not allowed. Not only does this lessen the feeling of restriction but it may encourage employee interaction, which helps an organizations social culture.
  2. Make it clear that your employees are being held fully responsible for anything they write/post and that they need to exercise good judgment and common sense.
  3. Review the meaning of plagiarism and layout the consequences of anyone found guilty of this offence.
  4. The same goes for confidential information and proprietary information. This is a major violation. If they give away the ingredients to your secret sauce, it won’t be a secret anymore.
  5. No negative postings regarding your organization. I have several clients that have had employees post false, negative reviews on Facebook and Yelp as a form of revenge after they were fired.  A signed social media policy can be very useful in getting these removed by the host site.
  6. Be clear in the boundaries of time that is allowed while at work for social media activities. It is not enough to block Facebook and Twitter from work computers when most employers have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy.

After you have drafted an intensive and appropriate social media policy, it is imperative to make sure every employee reads and signs it. It is not enough to include it in the employee handbook and hope they see it. We work in a digital world. This document can be as important as their W-9. It is also important to hold classes on the importance of social media within the workplace and the rights and responsibilities of the employer and the employee in regard to content.

Finally, it is important to enforce the policy to the full degree.  This will entail assigning someone the job of monitoring your social media sites and those of your employees. There are tools you can use to assist with this such as setting Google Alerts, but nothing beats having a set of eyes watching the screen. Whoever handles your social media is generally the person that handles this responsibility.

If you have any questions regarding how to write a social media policy, I would suggest you consider taking the ASPE-ROI Social Media Boot Camp. In it you will learn how to create your own social media policy as well as get examples of the policies used by big brands.

About the author:
Shelli Dallacqua is the Founder and President of Shelten Media, LLC. She is a member of the NC State Alumni Association and is a keynote speaker on the topics of social media marketing and reputation management. Connect with Shelli via Twitter by following @ShelliDallacqua, on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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