Every company needs a social media policy, and simply demanding that employees refrain from using social sites altogether won’t cut it. Social media is everywhere, and your customers may want to contact you and your team through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms. Some employees will intuitively understand not to cross the line between professional use and personal use while they’re at work, but others may not.

Creating a solid social media policy means devising a plan that is legally comprehensive but also easily understandable to everyone in your company. Use these three principles to help you form a policy that’s both effective and fair.

Play by the Rules

To start, make sure your company already conforms to the rules of each social media platform. On Facebook, for example, profiles are for people, while pages are for companies. If your company is operating a Facebook profile for business purposes, create a page in its place, and convert the old profile’s friends to followers of the new page.

By operating within the confines of the platform’s rules, your company and your employees won’t have access to the same tools that could cause legal liability problems, such as private messaging.

Keep It Separate

Your employees are likely already in contact with your customers over social media. And while there’s nothing wrong with your workforce building friendships with your client contacts, you need to draw clear lines in order to ensure your business isn’t liable for anything that an employee posts in a personal capacity. Ask your employees to sign a social media policy clearly stating that they won’t conduct business through social media.

In addition, create a list of the official ways in which your customers can contact your business. This should include traditional lines of communication (email, phone, fax, etc.), as well as your company’s Facebook page, Twitter handle and other social accounts. Distribute the list to your current clients, and be sure to check communications on your social media channels regularly. This way, a client should never need to ask their account manager a business question on her personal Facebook page.

Establish a Contingency Plan

If a customer ever does cross that line, however, your employees should know exactly how to set things right. An uninformed team member might not know what to say in such a situation, and they could take on more responsibility than necessary, creating a liability issue.

Create protocol that helps employees redirect communication back into one of the official channels. Tell your employees to end any business communications sent to their personal social accounts with a simple message such as “I can’t help you right now. Please call the office.” This will also give employees peace of mind — they know that if they follow the protocol, they’re in the clear.

Social media is great for connectivity, but these opportunities don’t come without potential headaches. In the same way email transformed business communication 20 years ago, social media is transforming business today, and the trend won’t stop evolving. The social media policy you create will have to be a living document that you revisit and revise on an annual basis based on ongoing changes to the platforms and how people are using them.

Dylan Murray has an MBA from San Diego State University and a bachelor’s degree in communication from Boston University. He is a licensed insurance agent in California, but he works as a professional researcher and writer reporting on business trends in estate law, insurance and private security. Dylan has worked as a script analyst with the Sundance Institute and the Scriptwriters Network in Los Angeles. He lives in San Diego, California, and Marseille, France.