Why you need a Social Media policy

MistakeThey’re not just for major corporations! Whether you are a small business, a professional association or a non-profit organization; whether you are posting yourself or hiring an agency to handle it for you, you need a social media policy. Here are some starting points in developing your policy:

WHY do we need a social media policy? People tend to think that because social media is so casual, you shouldn’t have to regulate it or set a bunch of rules. Because social media is so casual and informal is exactly the reason why a policy is critical. How many times have we seen a post to tweet gone wrong? We’ve all heard horror stories about negative tweets meant to be private that go public by mistake or managers who thought they were posting on their personal account send a tweet out on the company account that they manage. One potential guideline would be: if you wouldn’t want your boss or all of your customers to see this, don’t tweet it!

WHO is allowed to post? Will you allow others to post on your Facebook page? If so, make sure your settings are such that you approve a post or photo before it goes live. While interns typically have the technical knowledge to set up your platforms, they may not have the maturity or brand knowledge to post appropriate content or post in the voice of your brand. Some companies go so far as to create a Brand Avatar; a virtual imaginary figure that personifies their brand. Social Media managers would then assume this identity and post accordingly.

WHAT is appropriate to post? If yours is a consumer goods company, specials, coupons and special deals are absolutely appropriate on Facebook. If you are a service company, you may want to stick with information that will be useful to your audience, related to your industry. When people are bombarded with too many sales messages so that they feel that they are simply a target, they may disconnect.

If you are a LinkedIn Group, is selling allowed? May members post links to their blogs or offer special deals to other members? (There is a Promotions tab under LinkedIn Groups that may be appropriate for this. Members who go to that tab can see the sales messages, but they won’t be emailed to them like the Updates). LinkedIn Groups are a great place for members to share best practices, talk about industry news and share articles that are of interest to the Group. Most groups do not allow sales messages so if you decide to allow them, make sure it’s clear so that members know what they’re signing up for.

On Twitter, people follow you for information on the subject stated in your profile. If you are a golf association, Twitter is a great place for tips and trends – it is NOT the place for what you had for lunch, results from your kids soccer game, etc. Stay true to your subject matter and you’ll attract and keep followers.

HOW will comments be handled, both positive and negative? Whether customers are happy or unhappy, they rarely call a customer service number anymore…they go on line to your Facebook page or they Tweet about it. Make sure you have someone monitoring closely so that you can respond quickly. A person posting a positive comment should be thanked; a person posting a negative comment should be contacted immediately (ideally you had to approve the post and can reply privately). How a company handles negative comments is now more public than ever, so make sure your customer service specialists are alerted; you may not want your social media manager to handle a volatile situation.

WHERE should your policy be communicated? Everywhere. Employees and vendors should have a copy of the policy; it should be posted on your website where you can link to it from all of the social media platforms that you use.

Developing a social media policy will not only go a long way to avoiding embarrassing or damaging posts, but it will also help you refocus on your brand and ensure that every post is consistent with the messages you want to convey about your company or organization.