Crafting a Social Media Policy: Who needs to be at the table?

Janet M. Kennedy, Author & lecturer

The healthcare industry has been slow to embrace social media is with only 23% of registered hospitals active on a social platform in 2013.

That number is expected to double in 2014 yet almost 69% of hospitals do not have a social media policy. There are many reasons for having asocial media policy from protecting reputation, to establishing engagement expectations to lessening the chance of a privacy breach or HIPAA violation. The process can be (and should be) time consuming when done correctly but a well crafted policy can be a team building exercise that also clarifies the role of social media in community engagement.

In future posts I will discuss some of the basic tenants of a social media policy. Here we will examine who should be at the table when crafting a policy.

Social Media Policy Team

Marketing/Communications/Public Relations:

As the marketing or communications team has the most experience with social media they would be key players in the process. They will bring examples of various other policies with suggestions to consider. The marketing team has the role of managing the brand and marketing plan for the organization and will present how best to utilize social media to achieve that plan. The Communications team also brings the writing craft to the table.


The Compliance team has the detailed knowledge of privacy rules, data exposure, HIPAA guidelines and risk potential.  Their insight will help educate the rest of the team on the finer points of privacy issues in a public space.


A potential breach of the social media policy will involve the legal team so having them present at the table will aid in getting their buy-in on the front end and clarification on policy specifics regarding escalation and enforcement.


The Executive Team brings the strategic vision to the table so the policy is developed with a long-term strategy in mind.

Human Resources:

A social media policy is not an independent document but part of a living, dynamic set of operational guidelines. It should not replace or conflict with policies already written such as a Harassment, Ethics or Code of Conduct.  The Human Resources department will be able to prevent redundancies or conflicts between existing policies and the social media policy.


The team on the floor and face-to-face with customers and patients should have a place at the table because they are most likely to be in a privacy risk situation. By understanding their concerns and issues toward appropriate use, ethics and enforcement you can craft a policy that encourages the use of social media. An overly restrictive policy may cause employees to avoid rather than embrace social media.

Once the team has developed a policy that reflects the vision, mission and goals of your organization, the next step is creating a training program to get your team on the same page. More on training for a social media policy in the next blog post.