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social media policy

Social Media Policies – The good, the bad, and the excessive

It seemed like an appropriate first article on our new website to take a look at social media policies, and what companies should be considering when they open up themselves, their employees and their business to the big wide social web. For a lot of companies this will be the first early steps into the use of networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus, and we are still meeting a lot of clients who are uncertain about how to approach social media, and what they should and shouldn’t be saying. A social media policy is a good place to start.

Firstly there are several key functions of a policy:

  1. To provide your business with a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. What information will be of value to the people in your network and be most likely to help you achieve results and leverage sales (if this is one of your goals), and how do you want your business to be perceived.
  2. To provide guidelines for employees that cover their responsibility to the organisation when using social media, ensuring they understand that posting information or comment on the business or its clients is something that must be carried out with respect to privacy and ethics, and never to jeopardise the credibility of the business. This also involves the use of personal social media – there have been plenty of examples of employees being fired after posting lude or inappropriate content.
  3. Publishing your social media policy online so your customers can see your business has considered its responsibility to its customers and social network, and clearly set out its policy.

Do you need a policy?

The most important thing to remember when considering your policy, is that social media is meant to be expressive, spontaneous, and display personality. The last thing you want to do is write a list of rules that interrupt that flow and stifle your creativity. A social media policy should be more about the positive things you want to say than the negative things you don’t. Larger organisations might feel the need to button down employees and ensure they’ve ticked every box and covered their buns, legally. For us it’s a chance to identify the important things we want to get across, empower our employees so they have an understanding of what we’re trying to say, and give us a template that we can review as part of our wider marketing plan to make sure we’re always improving.

Not every business will feel the need to write a social media policy, but it's usually a very positive step that can help keep things clearer and focused. 

A few Tips

It’s a good idea for every business to discuss some basic guidelines, the ultimate dos and don’ts. Just remember to place just as much importance on the ‘do’s’. For a lot of companies this simple list is sufficient for their needs.

Include your strategy and approach in your policy. Look for opportunities to add value to what you offer, focusing the conversation around issues which relate to problems you can solve. Spending time on social media channels is only productive if it’s contributing to your goals, which for most businesses is ultimately sales conversion, whether for products or services. Remember though that social media isn’t a billboard to pin marketing waffle to, it’s not a direct marketing tool but a communication channel, and something that needs careful consideration to understand how to provide value to your customers and improve your profile. Leads through social media are often earned by support, information, problem solving and personality. The more you can develop in these areas, the more receptive your network will be to a marketing approach.

Ensure confidentiality and trust is always supported for your customers – for us that means respecting the clients we work for, ensuring we are publishing news of their projects only when they are ready for us to do so, and making sure we review this with them if we want to make an announcement before a website or piece of material is officially published.

Credit sources – if you’re taking quotes from other people, or reposting tweets or articles then always make sure you say so. Showing you are part of a collaborative conversation is just as strong as being out there on your own.

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