Social Media policies have been in the news in the last week and it has brought up the same questions for many companies big and small – what is a Social Media policy and what should it include? And do we call it a policy or guidelines? The language used will be the difference between enforcing your own beliefs on staff members and ensuring they feel they have a say in what has become part of our everyday working life.
Two main stakeholders – employees and contributors
First and foremost, a coherent SM policy means all your internal contributors are singing from the same hymn sheet. And on the other hand, employees need to understand the important role Social Media plays in the business and know what they can and cannot do. It’s important to keep in mind that in an era of Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, the days of simply ‘firewalling on the network’ are over and worse still, can come across as dictatorial.
You’ve entrusted the development and delivery of Social Media to contributors dotted throughout the company. It’s important to have a little symmetry and this sort of consistency will get you the best results.
Five main considerations for contributors
# 1. The brand
Your Social Media contributors need to understand your brand’s personality, brand values and other aspects like tone. They should also know what is acceptable content or indeed acceptable language. Can acronyms be used? LOL, LMAO and so on…
# 2. Complaints
They’re a part of business life and like in the real world, the digital world needs a way to process them. From good old insults to defamation, you’ll need consistency here in how to deal with them. Consider also whether you should remove posts or block people. But remember that removing all complaints will look a little suspicious!
# 3. Training
Ensure that contributors know how Social Media works, current etiquette, will equip them with the right tools that they can use to manage and analyse the various Social Media platforms.
# 4. Images & Publishing
It’s crucial you do not publish images that are owned by someone else or are in breach of privacy. As well as simply being the wrong thing to do, there may well be legal consequences. Also remember that you are responsible for everything you publish – from tweets to posts. Regarding images, have a ‘stock’ you can depend on or at least make your team aware of a reliable website where they can source appropriate imagery at the right price.
# 5. The go-to person
And finally, in unique cases, someone will have to make a judgement call. Decide who has the final say and make sure they’re happy with that job! Contributors will always have queries so it’s important they have someone to clarify points with first.
Your employees could be your best brand ambassadors but they will need some guidance and guidelines. Keep the lines of communication as open as possible and it may be worthwhile to hold internal group sessions and ask your staff members what they feel are reasonable Social Media guidelines.
Four Social Media guidelines for employees
# 1. Specify use
Try and specify your employees’ use of Social Media during working hours – for example, are they allowed to use Social Media during working hours (their own accounts) specifically on your equipment. In practical terms, define usage as best you can.
# 2. Company mention
Social Media is by definition a social outlet and people can get carried away very easily online. You need to decide if they can they mention your company and if so what can/can’t they say…
# 3. Employee mention
In workplaces, we all form friendships so you need to also take into consideration if members of your team can mention work colleagues and whether or not, they will be mentioned by the company.
# 4. The penalties
This is the hard bit – if people do not play by the rules – what are the penalties? Too harsh and there’ll be resentment and too soft and you may find your good nature being taken advantage of. A tough call indeed!
And that’s about the size of it. A whistle-stop tour through your first Social Media policy or guidelines (or indeed whatever you‘d like to call it!!). Just make sure Social Media continues to get you positive results for your business. And with a solid Social Media policy in place, you’ll be sure to eliminate any negative side effects along the way.
Related: Managing Social Media Risks: A Legal Guide For Your Business
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