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Social media guidelines: make employees your ambassadors

How to help your employees use social media for maximum impact.


Thomas More University College Mechelen (Memori) has analysed social media policies and guidelines from several local authorities and businesses in the North Sea Region.

The research team found that the most successful policies are developed around three principles:

  1. Regulation: stay within the law
  • Respect existing internal agreements, procedures (HR-policy, house style, etc.) and laws
  • Do not infringe any intellectual rights and copyrights

  • Do not share confidential information

  • Use common sense and behave as if you were speaking to someone face-to-face – as an official you are respectful, honest, efficient, transparent and reliable in all interactions with citizens, partners and colleagues

  • Do not submit content which may be offensive, abusive, menacing or deceptive

  • If in doubt, do not post – seek advice first

  • Protect your own and other people’s privacy – ask for permission before sharing photos


  1. Promotion: employees are ambassadors

  • Any activity – personal or as part of your work – may be seen in the light of you as a public employee

  • Do not put anything online which may be embarrassing or harmful to you or your organisation

  • Social media blurs the boundary between your private and professional life – ensure that your personal opinions cannot be interpreted as those of your organisation

  • Clearly indicate if you speak on behalf of yourself (add a disclaimer that your personal views do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation) or on behalf of the organisation (state your position and if relevant your qualifications to act as spokesperson)


  1. Conversation: engage in dialogue

  • Be productive – engage as much as you can, within the limits agreed with your line manager

  • Be transparent – contribute constructive, sound and positive posts and if you cannot supply information, explain why not

  • Be open – join in with discussions and encourage others to do so

  • Be pro-active – monitor what others say online about your project, service or organisation and respond with information and open dialogue

  • Be cautious – don’t get caught be in endless and heated discussions

  • Be ready – follow schemes, templates and guidelines to help you know how to respond to positive comments, complaints and criticism


“Employees are your ambassadors”

Next steps

Fancy Facebook? Analyse your municipality’s digital maturity and readiness for social media

Further reading

  • Article: Social Media Policy

  • Facebook guidelines - Karlstad

  • Facebook guidelines – Groningen


Marijke Lemal, Head of Research, Thomas More Media & Business School, Belgium.


Thomas More University College in Mechelen, Belgium, is an academic partner in the Opening Up project. Thomas More researchers are able to offer broad perspectives on social media and open data.

Facebook for business: the positive effect of a social media presence

A study of Dutch companies reveals that Facebook activity is good for business. A survey of 43 companies in the Netherlands show their good use of Facebook brings many business benefits… except direct sales.


A project by researchers from Hanze University of Applied Sciences, in Groningen, Netherlands, has analysed the Facebook activity of 43 companies in the local area. Dr Karel Jan Alsem and Drs Pieter Hogendoorn assessed more than 1500 posts to find out how companies used Facebook.

Interviews with more than 700 Facebook page ‘fans’ and customers also revealed that Facebook has created a new sales route, replacing the ‘hard sell’ with a new model of ‘conversation and cooperation’.

“The SMEs we studied are active on social media. Nearly all companies had a Facebook page and the type of posts they publish are in line with modern marketing insights,” Dr Alsem remarks. Only 14% of posts were explicitly promotional while around a half of posts were about new products or supplied complementary information, advice or entertainment related to the company’s market sector (e.g. a car dealer posting car maintenance tips).

“In this new paradigm of social media marketing, people expect informational posts and posts from users. Indeed, our study revealed an important correlation: user content leads to high responses.”

Fans are ambassadors, not always customers

Companies should be cautious about what their Facebook statistics mean, though. The study team did not find a strong correlation between the number of likes for a page or levels of engagement with fans and a “positive brand image”. “Just because people like what you post on Facebook does not necessarily mean you are improving your reputation or even driving sales,” Dr Alsem warns.

In fact, the survey reveals that most Facebook fans on these company pages were not regular customers. Almost one in five fans never bought products from their ‘liked’ company.

“The real benefit to developing a fan base is that you are building ambassadors for the company,” Dr Hogendoorn explains. “92% of the fans we interviewed said they would recommend the company to others, even if they were not customers themselves. These people are valuable ambassadors.”

The cooperative model

Excited by these insights, the researchers want to expand and refine their study. “Unfortunately our data did not show significant correlations between Facebook engagement and real world engagement. We still don’t know which type of Facebook campaign is most effective for sales,” Dr Alsem remarks.

Nevertheless, Dutch businesses appear to be using Facebook well, Dr Hogendoorn observes. “SMEs seem to put the right type of posts on Facebook, and they are making the transition from the old "hard sell" model to the new model of "conversation and cooperation". We see companies and customers on an equal footing, as they share information and cooperate. We are gearing future studies to find out more about this sharing process and how cooperation can deliver a competitive advantage.”

“Moving from the old "hard sell" to a new model of "conversation and cooperation"”

Story in numbers

Summary of benefits

  • Facebook fans are important company ambassadors who will recommend your company to others

Next steps

  • Understand your audience and provide what they want – fans may follow you for information, entertainment, a platform to share their own views or discounts

  • Develop your social media strategy

  • Seek the advice of social media experts and marketing professionals

  • Get involved in research: contact the Social Media Lab

Further reading


Dr. Karel Jan Alsem, Professor of Applied Sciences, School of Marketing Management, Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Email:

Karel Jan Alsem is a lecturer in marketing. He specialises in branding and marketing strategy and is the writer of several highly acclaimed marketing textbooks.

Drs. Pieter Hogendoorn, Lecturer in Online Marketing, School of Marketing Management, Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Email:

Pieter Hogendoorn is lecturer in online marketing. He has a passion for all things digital and innovative.