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Social Media Compliance: What It Means and How to Guarantee It

Wednesday 27 February 2019

10 minute read

By Sarah Burns

In simple terms, being compliant on social media simply means following the rules when engaging with the public on your social media platforms.

However there are many rules you need to follow, and you often need to decide which rules you should be following. There will be a variety of regulations and laws, including industry regulations, government laws and your company’s own social media policy (if you have one)!

Whether you're new to your company’s marketing department or are taking over the responsibility for social media marketing in your organisation, it’s important to create a set of rules that will help outline:

  • Industry and government regulations your organisation should follow
  • How your company should/shouldn’t engage with the public on social media
  • Brand guidelines, tone of voice, company-specific communication rules and style
  • Access and security of your accounts - who should access them, share updates, password security etc.
  • Content library - clear rules on the images, media and posts that you should/shouldn’t be posting
  • Proofing and verification - who is responsible for signing off messages, content editing process

Below we have listed some further details about ensuring the above is covered, which will help protect your company from security breaches, going off-brand or getting into online disputes with customers, ultimately it will ensure your organisation remains compliant.

1. UK social media rules and laws  

UK law says relatively little about how organisations use social media specifically, but it does outline that all marketing and advertising must be:

An accurate description of the product or service

  • Legal
  • Decent
  • Truthful
  • Honest
  • Socially responsible (not encouraging illegal, unsafe or anti-social behaviour)

One of the biggest marketing and advertising rule changes is in regards to data protection, with the introduction of GDPR to UK law in May 2018.

There are also certain rules which you must consider if you’re in a particular sector, including:

  • Food
  • Alcohol
  • Beauty products
  • Environmentally friendly products
  • Medicines
  • Tobacco

Find out more about the requirements you need to consider via this Gov.uk link.

If you’re in a B2B organisation, you should consider reading The Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.

2. Create a company social media policy

This should be bespoke to your organisation, rather than a ‘copy and paste’ job from online. Make it suit your specific style, marketing goals and the team responsible for posting on your social media accounts.

A social media policy will ensure your team remains compliant as it gives them specific guidelines to follow, but a social media policy shouldn’t be given verbally.

A successful social media policy should be an official, written document that staff can refer to whenever they need to. It won’t just help prevent employees “going rogue” but it will help remove possibilities of honest mistakes ‘going live’. Outlining exactly what you expect of them, and what you don’t expect, will remove any issues that are the result of employees trying to make assumptions in your best interests.

Your social media policy should:

  • Cover the security and privacy of your accounts, protecting you from the risk of hacking, as well as considerations for privacy law.
  • Empower your staff to do MORE with social media! Outlining your do’s and don’ts enables staff to feel confident that the can be creative within the parameters you’ve set. Allow your team to be brand advocates on your company social media account, professional social media accounts that have been set up for individuals and even on their own personal accounts. Having staff that are proud to shout about you and spread the word is something to encourage!
  • Protect your brand by outlining how communications should be displayed, as well as how to engage with followers, including if the conversation turns sour. Providing the boundaries to create consistent communications across all of your marketing channels will improve your trustworthiness with your audience.

3. Outline an acceptable use policy

This may form part of your company’s social media policy or may be a separate policy that outlines exactly who should be speaking on your company’s behalf, how they should say it and what exactly your company’s social media accounts are designed to do.

  • Who is expected to post on your social media accounts?
  • What are they expected to create content in relation to? I.e. crisis response, customer service, PR management, etc.

You should also set a guideline for which accounts your staff can and/or can’t engage with online, i.e. creating a safe list of accounts to retweet on Twitter, and setting up your competitors in Pages to Watch on Facebook.

4. Outline your publishing process

As an extension of your marketing process you should ensure proofing copy is part of your social media team’s duties. It’s crucial that posts are proofed for spelling and grammar issues as well as confirming they’re compliant with your policies. You should also ensure that video, audio and photographs/graphics used in social media posts follow your brand and social media guidelines.

As part of your social media policy you should specifically outline who is responsible for signing off on social media posts that your team produces, to avoid confusion should an issue occur.

Creating a content library - graphics, photos and video that are signed off for use online - is a great way of speeding up the content creation process and ensuring compliance.

5. Monitor account privacy and security

It is absolutely crucial that you regularly update your passwords, store them securely, in a facility such as LastPass, and control access to your accounts to ensure ex-employees, for instance, no longer maintain use of your account.

It’s also important to set out rules in your policy about insecure tools and accounts that employees could use by logging into your social media, leaving your account vulnerable to a security breach.  

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