Social media policy

Westward has finalised its Social Media Policy 2020 following customer consultation on the website and in social media. You can read the customer focussed sections of the Westward Social Media Policy below. 

Social Media Policy

  1. Introduction
    1. Westward recognises social media channels as a business tool to engage with customers and other stakeholders as well as enabling the delivery of key organisational messages.
    2. This policy applies to all customers, staff, board and stakeholders in Westward Housing Group Ltd and Horizon Homes.
    3. Westward social media channels provide information about events, useful films and links, and a means to be involved with Westward.
    4. Site users are able to contact Westward in private by direct messaging us with feedback, requests or concerns.
    5. This policy prohibits the posting of any social media content which:
  • Contains illegal material
  • Breaches regulatory rules or procedures
  • Contains material which is defamatory to Westward
  • Brings Westward into disrepute
  • Breaches equal opportunity policies
  • Amounts to bullying or harassment
  • Contains confidential information belonging to Westward or its customers

2. Objectives

2.1    To provide clear internal and external customer accountabilities and standards (displayed on our social media sites).

2.2    To embrace social media channels as opportunities and align their development to the Communications Policy and Westward’s digital approach.

2.3    To ensure that staff engage appropriately with our social media channels; personally and professionally.

2.4    To outline how we use social media platforms to proactively engage with our audiences in the Social Media Guidance document.

2.5    To make clear the positive uses of social media beyond the complaint and response nature of some online communication channels.

2.6    To mitigate risk factors that may arise through our social media platforms.

3. Policy Details

3.1    Westward is committed to making the best use of technology to improve the way we provide services, communicate and interact with our communities.

3.2    Westward recognises the communication benefits of social media in customer accessibility, public relations, reputational, sales and customer engagement.

3.3 Social media offers us an opportunity to build relationships with customers by listening to and learning from them. It can generate word of mouth, encourage traffic to our website and enhance our brand.

3.4 Westward encourages employees to use social networking for business purposes as part of their role and to enhance Westward’s media channels by cross-promoting from their own accounts. 

3.5 Social media is the preferred communication method for many of our customers and we will provide a positive experience and respond in the same media.

3.6 All queries and complaints will be responded to within agreed timescales of half a working day. During periods of extended business closure e.g. Christmas, we will post content in advance advising of the out of hours approach.

3.7 Our tone of voice on social media will reflect that we are friendly, professional and helpful. We will have a balanced mix of posts including useful information, corporate messages and human interest stories.

3.8 Customers should feel listened to and have a positive customer experience to encourage customer engagement.

3.9 We will apply our terms and conditions on the site to prevent bullying, harassment, hate crime and disrespectful behaviour.

3.10 Westward’s reputation will be positively promoted in meaningful ways.

3.11 Westward will encourage private messaging to keep sensitive discussions away from public view.

4. Professional Conduct

4.1 Social media posts reflect on the company and are part of Westward’s reputation. Employees are responsible for their conduct and are required to comply with the Professional Boundaries at work policy.   

4.2 Any posts made by colleagues reflect on Westward if the site links them to Westward in any way; regardless of whether they are made in work or personal time and from work or private computers.

4.3 Any breach of this policy may result in a disciplinary sanction up to and including summary dismissal.  That is dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice.

4.4 Employees must not share any personal data relating to themselves or others on Westward social media accounts. For their own security and protection they are also strongly advised to not share any sensitive personal data about themselves or others on personal accounts which they allow to remain visible to the Westward social media account sites.

4.5 Employees must:

  • Be professional and responsible
  • Provide content which adds value, is relevant, engaging, accurate and assists Westward’s purpose, objectives and values
  • Have clear aims, assess risk and monitor success.
  • Opinions expressed must not be discriminatory, defamatory, damage Westward’s reputation or be in breach of the organisation’s policies.    

4.6 When on personal social media sites and blogs, employees must:

  • Remember they are responsible for any content they publish
  • Understand and use their online privacy settings
  • Be clear they are speaking for themselves and not on behalf of Westward

4.7 If colleagues have Westward customers as social media contacts and were to share anything inappropriate or in breach of Westward policies, then this will be treated as a disciplinary matter.

4.8 Where employees have an association to Westward online, they may be considered to be acting in the course of their employment. Any content which breaches Westward’s policies, such as discriminatory or bullying content, will be investigated under Westward’s Disciplinary Policy.

4.9 Westward reserves the right to view and review information available online, whether in a colleagues’ private or professional social media channels if security settings have not been applied so it remains visible.

4.10 Colleagues are not to post images of customers without a signed Photo Consent form.

5. Business aims met by using social media to:

5.1 Provide fast and affordable information services which are effortless for our customers and stakeholders.

5.2 Engage customers using posts of general interest and benefit as well as organisational messages. Authors need to ‘be themselves’ and be engaging in order to be consistent with the media.

5.3 Provide an informal, ‘human’ voice for the organisation to enhance customer relations and experience.

5.4 Increase customer feedback and a two-way dialogue to engage with customers.

5.5 Increase positive awareness of our organisation, brand, activities and services.

5.6 Listen to and better understand our stakeholder groups, to identify which communities are talking about us and what they are saying. 

5.7 Extend reach of corporate messages online, measured by followers and web traffic referrals from external sites.

5.8 Be accessible and reach a wider audience, including hard to reach groups.

5.9 Provide a free and real-time method of communication, invaluable with urgent messaging e.g. snow days.

6. Regulation

6.1 Colleagues must approach the Communications Manager to be an author on Westward social media sites.

6.2 Colleagues must contact the Communications Manager for guidance and approval to create a new Westward social media site e.g. support project closed Facebook group. They will need to consider the aims, benefits, risk, information to be shared, membership criteria and who will administer the site. The Communications Manager is to be an administrator on all Westward pages and groups for external communication purposes.

6.3 Social media sites should signpost customers to the Westward website and encourage registration for a self-service MyAccount. 

6.4 Westward social media sites are to carry the approved Terms and Conditions such as: ‘Please be aware that personal or abusive comments posted on this wall will not be tolerated and you will be blocked if you do so.’

6.5 General complaints, feedback and comments that may be negative should be addressed promptly, politely and helpfully. If possible take complex issues into direct messaging.

6.6 In rare instances, further steps can be taken to remove content posted by customers. Site visitors must be able to easily report any abuse. Derogatory or offensive comments will be removed by the administrator and a message posted advising that all such comments will be removed and the reasons. An extreme or persistent offender will be blocked from the site, template text is available in the Social Media Policy Guidelines.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

This Social Media Policy supports Westward’s commitment to treat all people with fairness and respect. We aim to foster good relations within our communities.When applying this policy we will act sensitively towards the diverse needs of individuals and to reduce discrimination and harassment by providing this means of accessible communication between Westward and its diverse customers.

We will be inclusive and help ensure representation of diversity in our communities in our imagery and content.