The evolution of social media as a channel for communications comes with great responsibility because of message amplification and the ability to instantly engage with customers, prospects, employees, colleagues and others on so many different levels.Now more than ever, companies need to identify which social media platforms are the most effective for their business and define the parameters that their employees should follow.Interesting to note:The earliest usage of this phrase can be attributed to Voltaire, albeit in French.
As this chart clearly shows, businesses are not slowing down their spending on social media budgets. As the introduction states, “confidence in the business value of social media continues to grow.”The one important dimension about social media that continues to push it more into the mainstream of business strategy is the fact that more companies are learning how to capitalize on its potential and more accurately measure their return on investment.
Before you develop a social media policy you have to first think about what social media means to your company:Is it about building your brand name?Is it about connecting with existing and potential customers?Is it about promotion of content generation?Is it about increasing web site traffic from your social network pages?Is it about gathering information about competition?Is it about identifying opportunities?Is it all of these things?Whatever the reasons, chances are that you are a business that wants to harness the power of social media to boost sales, increase profits and optimize customer service.Be crystal clear on what platforms you are covering and define what social media means to your company. Why are you investing resources in participating? What do you hope to get out of it and how are these tools helping the company? Encourage smarter participation by making employees aware of the larger goal and their role in getting there. Explain how their interaction can benefit the entire company.
leverage your brand – perhaps you are a company that has a strong brand name and you are looking for new opportunities to leverage that brand name to increase your footprint for one reason or another. Perhaps you are a company that does not yet have a strong brand name and you want to strengthen it through social media channels. More customers and prospects use social media: (see notes)Employee retention and hiringIf you block, people may not be as willing to work for your organization According to the Great Place to Work Institute, none of the top 100 companies block social media access at the office.Engaged employees are more valuable:They are more likely to see their work as an investment rather than a job Leads to rise in productivity and commitment Enhances reputation by communicating the good things you are doing Uninformed staff may share high risk information – ex – layoffs before they are properly communicatedReinforces a strong, positive cultureBy embracing new communication methods, you emulate a strong culture
Have to trust employees to make the right decisions Look, the fact of the matter is that if you are hiring great talent, you have to trust employees to make the right decisions Accountability -- Holding them accountable for the work they do should be less important to the results they achieve for the organization Trust is an important factor for workers (esp. Generation Y) According to “The Great Place To Work Institute” more companies are using social media to recruit new workers who may be more trusting of sites like Facebook to evaluate their peers opinions
Employees are digital footprint As the economy becomes more dependent on digital communication, collectively your employees are the ones who develop the company’s digital ecosystem and create the digital legacy Allows you to spell out company’s beliefs Having a social media policy demonstrates what core values lay behind the reasoning for using social media – you essentially want your social media policy to be a reflection of the social media mission and vision
What are the opportunities and risks?Where are customers and prospects hanging out? Define what types of language and information can be considered risky?Is it better to develop at the beginning or develop organically?Overwhelmingly, most say that it’s better to develop at the beginningWhat should the employee take away after reading the policy?Focusing on what they can do vs. what they can’t do is key (leverage the positive)Restrictive models of engagement aren’t conducive to successfully leveraging platformsWho should the policy be distributed to?It’s important not to alienate any groups – consider all that the social media policy will affect – clients, potential clients, current and past employeesHow much information should we include?Once you have decided what information to include, don’t make it too long or else employees will not want to read it (brevity is key)
Now let’s take a look at some of the most important elements to include in your social policy.
Policy should come before plan. Get the do’s and don’ts out of the way. You can then move forward with the plan, which tends to be more creative and flexible.
It’s important to be clear about which social media platforms and channels are covered in the policy. Not a bad idea to create some channel specific guidelines but you want to have a general policy that encompasses an overall strategy Define what the channel is, your accounts on the channel and best practices (ex – how to comment on a blog without it being considered spam)
Now let’s take a look at how employees should frame their image on social media channels and what best practices might be applicable to the approach that fits your business.
I copied the Twitter profile from a Comcast representative that demonstrates how Steve has personalized his role at Comcast as the main representative to handle customer related problems. For Comcast, their approach is to assign an individual to handle customer concerns and field questions. Perhaps this is the best approach for your company.
Here we see the Twitter profile from PRWeb, a division of Vocus who provides On-Demand Software for Public Relations ManagementAs you can see in the company description, even though it is a company account, the individuals that are responsible for administering the account and their twitter user names are identified.If you use personal accounts use your name and (if its appropriate) your company title – basically, this creates trust when people know who you are. (For example. Have you ever called a customer service center and the rep opens the call with their name and extension number ? – I don’t know about you but personally, I feel more confident when this happens rather than me asking for the information)
Consistency is key.Coca cola does a great job of maintaining a consistent image across the social media platforms that they operate in.As you can see from their Facebook page and their Twitter page, they use the same icon and color schematic. Consistency is key to their strategy and from what I have seen, companies that focus on consistency are generally more successful in maintaining a strong brand image and positive sentiment about their identities.Maintain consistency for avatars across social platforms – using logos vs. pictures requires different messaging and branding approach – (you want to keep the same personality for all platforms!)It’s the same concept if you are using corporate brand or personal image. When you change an avatar, make sure that you change it in all platforms.
Where does the buck stop? It starts and stops with the employee participating in social media!It may seem obvious that employees should be held responsible for what they write, but make sure that you make it clear. Stress that employees are legally liable for anything that they write or present online.If you indoctrinate a sense of responsibility for employees to remember, chances are they will use the platforms more responsibly.
Now let’s take a look at what constitutes proper etiquette on social media channels and why this is important to define in a social media policy.
No personal attacks Don’t poke or goad crazy people We all know that there are those who use social media to bully, harass and ridicule. It’s important to let employees know that the best policy is to let these sleeping dogs lie. Don’t use slurs, derogatory or inflammatory languageRefrain from offensive jokes or comments – the joke that you may not think is offensive may be interpreted differently from someone else. Best bet is to stay away from jokes all together. Stay away from discussions on religion politics.Think about what is appropriate to say in a job interview or on a first date. Generally speaking, you want to stay away from anything that has to do with religion or politics – two topics generally considered easy to spark controversy and foster negativity.
Kenneth Cole Disaster resulted in a big backlash across the internet and damaged their brand name. Red Cross slip up by an employee was luckily handled quickly by the Red Cross and did not damage their reputation but is a good example of how easy it is to make a mistake. If employees are using social media monitoring tools, chances are they might be monitoring several accounts at the same time so be sure to include a section in the policy on how to properly manage these tools. Important policy is to think twice before hitting the ‘send’ button!
Stress the permanency of the Internet – things do not easily disappear. Don’t make promises you can’t keep – this goes back to the trust factor meaning that people want to trust your company and part of building that trust is not making hollow promises Be quick to correct mistakes and admit that you are wrong – everyone makes mistakes, so no one is saying that social media channel administration is going to flow without mishaps so be sure to remind employees that if they do make a mistake, admit it and correct it immediately. Consistency – make sure employees stick to proper etiquette that we have been discussed earlier and avoid the “Jekyl and Hyde” approach. Remind employees what is acceptable and what is not. There may be certain nuances that are applicable to your industry which may not be applicable to another. For example, in the primary industry that I operate in which is biometric technology, it is best not to talk about privacy, which is a very sensitive subject in a negative light and to respect the opinions of advocates.
Let’s take a look now at how best to define balancing the identity that employees portray in their interactions with the community though social media channels.
The 80/20 rule states that employees should talk 80% to support others and 20% self promotional). The question to ask is – Is this the right balance for your company? What does the 80% consist of? People are more likely to do business with a friend than someone they don’t know. Don’t use social media as a megaphone You can’t fake authentic interest – people see that a mile away – if there is one thing that social media has taught us, it’s the ability to sniff out the self-promoters from those who really care Goal should be to build relationships Importance of transparency (but not free reign to say anything or use proprietary information) – do not use pseudonyms or false screen names.It isn’t a competition, rather a place where people feel comfortable sharing, connecting and receiving help
We will now transition and take a look at what information a social media policy should include about how to handle some of the most common occurrences that you may encounter on social media channels.
Negative tweets - How do you handle? Respond immediately, or send to another department?Who do complaints get handed off to? Respond immediately or send to another department? Remember, if your organization is large enough, you may be able to have one team monitor and another respond. This may end up being the best policy for you.Ultimately no matter which method you choose, employee empowerment can be the best tool.
We discussed earlier that there probably should be some parameters drawn as to which topics are off limits. It’s a good idea once again to remind employees that religion and politics are included in those topics. It is a well know fact that many companies use social media platforms to monitor their competition to check and see when might be a good time to jump into a conversation to offer their products or services but I don’t think under any circumstances it is ever a good idea to bad mouth or smear a competitor. Make sure your employees know that. We talked about jokes before. It’s wise to stay away from them. Remember that it’s ok to be entertaining and jovial but jokes can be misinterpreted. And as a general rule, it’s best to keep emotions in check. Remember, think twice before you hit the ‘send’ button.
Let’s shift our discussion into elements of a social media policy that include best practices for protection of licensed information.
Make employees aware of their obligations Always respect copyrights, trademarks and fair use or NDA’sGive people credit for their work that you are referencingMake sure that you have the right to use something before you use itCreative CommonsNever use the names of customers, partners or suppliers without their permission Don’t plagiarizeIf you have questions before you release, always check with management, PR or legal
Make employees aware of their obligations Set clear guidelines -- Make it clear that an employee will lose their job if they share confidential, proprietary, pornographic, libelous, or defamatory information – but be careful of how you word the policy about using personal platforms (egFacebook) – see DawnMarie Souza case Set a component of your policy to state that if an employee is ever in doubt about using something that may jeopardize any of these things, they should ask for guidance.
The next part of the presentation covers what productivity and value elements are suggested to be covered in your social media policy.
This bullet applies more to a social media plan than a policy but it’s important to remember that in order to be effective on social media channels, employees must stress the company’s core competencies – make sure that you spell out what particular strengths relative to other organizations in the industry provide the fundamental basis for the provision of your company’s added value. In other words, what sets you apart from the competition and what are the best policies to demonstrate that? Since we no longer work in a 9 to 5 world, set guidelines in your policy that remind employees executing an effective social media strategy is all about striking the right balance and respect work commitments. Make sure you stress that. Set priorities.
Stress the importance of bringing value through social mediaIt’s all about return on engagement – stress that social media is about identifying opportunities that arise which may not have otherwise existed. Remind employees to stick to relevant topics and paths on social media channels. It’s easy to stray to other unrelated topics so spell out that maintaining relevance is key. Be sure that your policy is kept up to date and even develop a real time approach where you are constantly educating yourself on recent developments for best practices so you can immediately incorporate those into your policy.Align employees with company values – you don’t want employee social media activity to seem like adherence to a forced company morality
Let’s move now to what policy guidelines should be included that cover how you plan to monitor employee social media activities.
Make privacy guidelines clear – using social media platforms means a company has the right to monitor what you say for business and personal use. Be sure however, to study the laws and understand how they apply. Some states have different laws on this. Be clear on what platforms will be monitored or make the policy inclusive of all the platforms that cover the social media landscape. If your company uses social media to monitor potential employment candidates, make sure that you spell out how you monitor and what your expectations are. Investing in monitoring software. Make sure to involve your legal department, and as a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to send the entire social media policy to your legal team before it’s published.
Here are examples of three companies that you can research which do an excellent job of creating social media policies that empower their employees to use the channels productively and successfully.
Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Business
How To Draft A Social Media Policy For Your Company <br />John Trader – Communications Specialist, Public Relations and Social Media, M2SYS Technology<br />@John_Trader1 @m2sys firstname.lastname@example.org<br />If tweeting during the presentation, please use hash tag #smpolicy<br />1<br />
Agenda<br /><ul><li>Why LetEmployees use Social Media?
Don’t use slurs, derogatory, </li></ul> inflammatory language<br /><ul><li> Refrain from offensive jokes or </li></ul> comments<br /><ul><li> Stay away from discussions on </li></ul> religion or politics<br />07/25/11<br />19<br />
Elements of a Good Social Media Policy<br />Some Examples of What Not to Say<br />Kenneth Cole Disaster<br />Red Cross Slip Up<br />07/25/11<br />20<br />
Elements of a Good Social Media Policy<br />Reminders to Include on Etiquette <br /><ul><li> Stress the permanency of the Internet – things do not disappear!
Books<br />The Social Media Management Handbook – Nick Smith, Robert Wollan, Catherine Zhou<br />Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Company – Steve Helland<br />Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization – Oliver Blanchard<br />Monitoring Software<br />http://employee-monitoring-software-review.toptenreviews.com/<br />http://monitoring-software-review.toptenreviews.com/<br />07/25/11<br />36<br />