Friday, March 1, 2013

4 Things to Include in a Social Media Policy

Welcome back guest blogger and EAFocus Associate/social media guru Sara Przybyslki! Follow Sara on Twitter @MichiganPRguru
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a two-person shop, it is important to have a social media policy. Why?
Well, a policy ensures you have consistency in the way your social media program is run and maintained. Your policy should be a combination of legal protection for the organization as well as rules and guidelines for all employees – ranging from those managing the pages to those simply engaging and interacting on the pages.

While each organization needs to structure its social media policy to meet its specific needs, following are four general areas I suggest you include (or at least consider including) in your policy:
1.    Protection for Your Brand. The policy should provide clear legal protection of a brand’s identity. A section addressing who within an organization is entitled to create a company page on a social media site is crucial. You want to ensure every employee is not able to take the company logo and create a page and run it as though it is the official company social media site. This section should also address the legality of using the brand’s logo, slogan or any other trademarked materials to  create a social media page that may be misconstrued as belonging to and sanctioned by the company (i.e. explain what the repercussions of doing so will be).

2.    Guidelines for Managing Social Media Pages. When do you delete a post? You can’t delete all negative comments because people will stop interacting on the page if they see numerous posts being removed, but there should be a line drawn to determine when posts should and should not be removed. Having a clear understanding and setting a precedent on how negative comments will be handled on a social media page are crucial. If you don’t have set guidelines on how to handle the conversations taking place on your company’s social media pages, you are doomed to chaos and confusion. Because social media is so quick paced, you need to have a quick resource to reference so the pages are managed and handled consistently (i.e. if someone uses a curse word in a comment and you delete it, any other post made with profanity should be deleted as well). Don’t make exceptions.

3.    Purpose of the Social Media Policy. Individuals drafting the policy and those reading and abiding by it need to not know the purpose behind the document. If you think the sole purpose of your policy is: “We need something to protect us” or “Everyone says we should have one,” think again. Understanding what the company culture is, items you want to protect (see number 1) and how you will manage the page are imperative. Without this common understanding of the role social media is to play in your organization and what the purpose of the policy is, you won’t be successful in creating a useable policy that covers legal matters and sets guidelines.
4.    Who Manages the Page(s)? Clearly define who in the organization is responsible for managing the social media pages. People and roles/responsibilities change within an organization. Because Joe and Sue had a conversation when a Facebook page was created stating who was going to post the content and monitor the conversation, it is not necessarily common knowledge to others in the organization. Without having in writing that the Social Media Manager (i.e. Joe) is responsible for drafting the content and the Community Manager (i.e. Sue) is responsible for managing and monitoring the pages, when someone or both of them leave their current roles, the job functions and common understandings are gone as well.
One last note to leave you with…be sure the policy is not a ‘threatening’ document to discourage employee interaction and participation on the company pages.

Do you have any other items you have included in your policy?


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