Learn How One Document Can Prevent a Social Media Implosion
Content marketing has become one of the fastest-growing methods for small businesses to build their brands and to expand their target audiences. Although social media enables businesses to communicate with their audiences like never before, it can also be a liability. One poorly-received comment on social media can turn a business into the next Amy’s Baking Company, a business that became notorious for an online meltdown after its appearance in an episode of "Kitchen Nightmares."
Before you designate one of your employees as your official blogger or Facebook page manager, you should develop a strategy and a set of policies for how your company and your employees use social media. In this month's newsletter, I’ll discuss the basics of a social media policy, including the purpose of a social media policy, why you should have one, and some tips for drafting a social media policy.
What is the Purpose of a Social Media Policy? Why have one?
A social media policy sets a standard for how your company interacts online as well as how your employees are expected to conduct themselves online.
For your business, the primary purpose of a social media policy is to ensure that your content strategy is accurate and that your interactions with customers are positive. In short, your social media policy should ensure that you don’t sabotage all of your branding efforts with an inappropriate or negative post—you want to be popular, not infamous.
The purpose of a social media policy for your employees is to make sure your employees have a clear understanding of what is considered to be prohibited online behavior. Your policy should provide specific examples of unacceptable behavior, statements, and activities, such as disclosing confidential information or trade secrets. It should also provide guidelines for how employees posting as official representatives of your company (as bloggers, forum moderators, or Facebook administrators) should conduct themselves.
Tips for Drafting Your Own Social Media Policy
As social media marketing practices have become more popular, they’ve also received more scrutiny from agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board. It’s become more important than ever to ensure that your social media policy strikes a balance between pursuing business goals and protecting your employee’s rights. Here are some suggestions for drafting your own social media policy:
- Use your existing policies from Human Resources as the foundation for your social media policy. Many of these policies are applicable to social media even though social media may not have been a consideration when the original policies were first drafted.
- Collaborate with your employees on developing or changing your social media policy, especially the ones who will be blogging or posting online for you.
- Establish procedures for how to post content and respond to comments in an appropriate and constructive manner. Your content should cite sources where applicable, respect your competitors, and conform to any relevant regulations concerning advertising and accuracy.
- Provide specific examples of types of information that is and is not appropriate to disclose online.
- Don’t over-restrict your employees. Completely prohibiting their access to social media at work may be a violation of their protected rights as employees—and even if not, it can decrease morale. Allowing employees to access some social sites shows that you trust your employees to manage their time wisely. If you can monitor your employees’ computer activity, disclose that information to them as well.
- Once you’ve drafted your social media policy, hold training sessions to ensure that your employees know and understand it.
As you can see, a social media policy operates in several different areas of your business. It establishes a guide for appropriate employee behavior online and can be considered a component of your HR policies. It also standardizes the ways your company interacts and represents itself online, and thus is a key part of your marketing strategy. If you’re exploring content marketing strategies, having a social media policy in place before you begin posting online can help you make a strong first impression online while avoiding missteps that can be damaging to your brand and to your reputation. I can help you solve the challenges of your small business; contact me for more information.