Writing a social media policy
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Writing a social media policy

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Some tips on things to consider when writing a social media policy.

Some tips on things to consider when writing a social media policy.

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  • 1. Writing a social media policy
    It would appear to have now entered marketing lexicon that businesses and brands should make use of social media, be that via a blog, Facebook, Twitter, forums, G+ or a combination of some/all of the above (and the many more channels).
    Each of those channels requires careful consideration before you put it into your marketing mix, as they have very different levels of two-way engagement, and therefore control from a marketing point of view.
    Even if you are not yet at the stage where you agree that social media has a use for your business, you need to be aware your employees will be personally using it, and have a policy in respect of that usage, even if it is to merely make clear that the standards expressed in the contract of employment cover their social media usage.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 2. Which Channels?
    When writing a social media policy the first thing to consider is your channels, and in determining those, there will be some consideration of your strategy.
    Which are you going to use? How? Why? Is YouTube appropriate or Facebook more so? Do you have a blog? Do you need a blog? What is the content going to be? Are you going to comment on related blogs and link back? Are you going to allow comments, or not? Who is going to moderate them? What will the moderation policy be?
    What do you mean, ‘what’s a strategy’? A strategy says what your purpose is in using the channels, i.e. what you hope to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. If you haven’t got one, go do that first, then write your policy.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 3. You have to ask those questions of every channel you propose to use, not least of which because your employees’ time is limited, and using too many channels which have tumbleweed blowing across them is worse than using one or two channels really well.
    If you decide you are only able to have say, two channels, consider who your customers/clients are, and the channels they are more likely to use, and use those.
     
    Once the channels that will be utilised are established, the employee responsible for engaging needs some guidance before putting fingers to keyboard, and that includes their personal digital footprint, and whether there should be a cross-over.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 4.   The personal/professional cross-over
    Starting with the personal, you need to consider if there should be/is cross-over, either deliberate or incidental.
    Do you want employees to put their work place in their bio or do you want them to keep accounts entirely separate?
    Be aware, that if you expect to an employee to be clear about where they work on their personal accounts, as a company you are then limited in controlling the messaging they push out, which, depending on the industry, can bring its own set of problems.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 5. In some industries, the connection between the person and their work is so intertwined that there is little choice, and it should be made clear to them that they are representing the company via these channels as well as being themselves, and that as a company, you expect them to be respectful of that.
    You should also consider if they should have a disclaimer making clear that any opinions expressed are their own and not those of the company.
     
    There can however, be incidental cross over. If you expect your employee to use their full name on your company accounts, search engines can identify that person’s personal accounts. If that is likely, again, employees should be made aware of it, and again, consideration should be given to a disclaimer regarding opinions.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 6.  
    So, first set of questions:
    Should there be deliberate cross-over? Do you therefore need to set boundaries for personal social media use? What should they be?
     
    Is there a risk of incidental cross-over? How will you manage that?
    Does the company need to warn personal social media users about how they represent the company on their channels of choice? Does this apply to all employees regardless of whether or not they are involved in social media officially on behalf of the company?
    Does the company need a policy regarding identifying the work place in bios on personal accounts?
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 7. Should there be a standard disclaimer on personal channels that the views expressed are those of the author and not the company?
     
    Who owns those accounts once a person leaves?
     
    Should any policies be different depending on whether the cross-over is deliberate or incidental?
     
    Should you ask employees to lock their personal accounts down? Be aware, that even if you do so, that does not entirely negate cross over, as your customers can be amongst those who are within the permitted circles.
    Once you have decided on your channels and personal cross-over, you can then consider how you want your employees to engage on behalf of the company.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 8. Tone of voice
    Firstly there should be a consistent tone across all channels – again, there is some cross-over here with your strategy, however, your policy needs to set the tone, so your employees know how to talk to your customers/clients.
     
    To determine tone, you need to ascertain who your employees are talking to. What is your demographic? Where are they?
    Tone should be set in accordance with the demographic and be culturally sensitive.
    When looking at culture, do not assume that culturally all English speakers for example, are the same.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 9. Wired (a well known tech magazine) found themselves in a minor spot of bother for using a word in a Tweet which was inoffensive to American readers (who they were actually talking to), but hugely offensive to those in the UK.
    Which leads onto the point of being aware that people outside of your target audience are listening – with open channels, you cannot contain your massaging as strictly as you would with closed channels. What is your policy if you are inadvertently culturally insensitive? (NB it should contain the word ‘apologise’).
    However, don’t be overly prescriptive or restrictive. If you are, you will stilt your overall social media voice. Of course, in some instances (e.g. in pharma) tight restrictions are required, but only go as far as necessary for your industry.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 10. Be clear about the purpose of your social media channel – cover it briefly in the policy, and refer to the strategy documents.
    If employees know what you want from it, it makes it easier for them to understand what they should be writing and how they should be responding.
    NB ‘More sales’ is not a clear purpose.
     
    Make clear who you want the employee to write ‘as’. Are they for instance, a character tied to your brand which already has a well defined voice they need to learn?
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 11.  
    Extra curricular training
    Give legal guidance/training in the ASA guidelines as they apply to social media; libel, fair use and copyright, and give them a (reliable) contact to nudge about anything they are unsure about.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission.
  • 12.  
    Boundaries
    Give clear boundaries. Are your channels for broadcasting or engagement? Or are they a mix? Are there different strategies per channel? Make clear in your policy what is expected for each channel.
     
    Have an engagement policy that is clearly defined. For instance, on Twitter, is the employee to follow all followers? Are they to occasionally reply to off message tweets from followers? Who are they to refer complaints to? Do they deal with them openly, or try to get a person complaining to a different (private) channel asap?
    Have a troll policy. Unless you are very lucky, you will attract some trolling. Are they to be ignored? Comments deleted? Blocked? Is there a company line that is to be given in response?
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 13.  
    Chit chat
    Be clear what you want the conversation to be about on your channels.
    Upcoming products? Competitions? Dealing with customer services issues?
    If the channel has a clearly defined purpose, have somewhere to refer users to. For instance, if your YouTube channel is for broadcast purposes, and you receive a customer services issue there, give guidance as to where to refer that customer/client to.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 14.  
    Channel specific policies
    What channels are you using? Blog, forum, Facebook, Twitter?
    Those channels are very different, and will require some unique policy elements. For instance, a blog and forum will require a moderation policy, as they attract user generated content. That moderation policy will have to take some basic legal principles into account, for instance, as above, libel.
    Facebookhas different considerations. Will you allow users to post videos and photographs to your page, or will you only allow comments? What is the policy on responding to comments? How do you want your employee to encourage conversation? Do you want them to?
    Is there a cross-pollination policy across channels, or does what happens on Facebook stay on Facebook?
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 15. Password Policy
    Who is to know them and where are they to be stored?
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 16.  
    When it all goes wrong
    Sometimes, social media can go horribly horribly wrong – and has affected some big hitters. Vodafone for instance, ran a competition that put tweets onto their website in real time without moderation. At first blush, harmless.
    However, they forgot to take into account the small matter of how political a large proportion of Twitter users are, and the slightly larger matter of a £6billion tax bill. The site was bombarded with thousands of uncomfortable political messages.
     
    Your employees need a metaphorical huge big red ‘off’ button. What level of action can the employee take as a holding action? Who do they call for guidance? What if that person is not available?
    And who has the number to the reputation management folks?
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 17. Mea Culpa
    People are generally forgiving. When Wired used that offensive word in a tweet, they explained and apologised, and the storm passed very quickly.
    Vodafone had an errant employee send out a deliberately offensive tweet on their company account. They very quickly deployed a team to apologise individually to every person who tweeted about it.
    Although some of the trade press ran articles on it, the situation was very quickly diffused by the apologies.
    Ensure your policy gives scope for a simple ‘sorry’.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 18. What are the consequences?
    There is little point having a policy, if you have no mechanism for enforcing that policy. Your policy should make clear that a breach can lead to disciplinary action, and link to the necessary company documents which relate to that.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission.
  • 19. Here be Dragons
    Although I have included a couple of horror stories here, overall there is little to fear from social media. Generally, it is a relatively cheap (outlay = staff costs + training) way of marketing, customer engagement and increasing brand awareness.
    However, the biggest dragon of all is doing social media badly. It is honestly better to not do it at all, if you are not prepared to put the resources in to do it well.
    Users of social media are a savvy lot and they will have no fear in vociferously pointing out poor form, but conversely, they fall in love with well executed accounts, even if those accounts occasionally mess up.
    Make sure you have your strategy, have your policies, and have staff with personalities who want to engage on your behalf. It really is that simple.
    © 41 Minds Ltd 2011 No unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission