Does your company have a social media policy?

social media policy

Navigating the social media jungle has become exhausting with the lines between personal and business use continually blurring. Billions embark everyday on a social safari across the globe to comment collectively and share experiences.

A single # (hashtag) can result in massive public outcry and crisis awareness. But it can also escalate an inappropriate comment into a tsunami of negative social sentiment towards your brand. That’s why it is time to begin building your social media survival kit, equipped with a rock solid social media policy for your protection.

But My Company Is Not on Social Media!

Even if you have not begun exploring social territories like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, your brand may still be in danger. Chances are, in some way or another you are already being represented on social media, as a company, by your customers, affiliates, or by your employees.

Companies like Domino’s Pizza, Gap Inc., and StubHub have demonstrated the consequences of not being prepared and just how quickly an offensive tweet or questionable Facebook post can escalate into a feeding frenzy for the media.

How to Prepare for Social Media Survival

1. Scout the Land and See How Social Media Works

Social media literacy is no longer a competitive advantage for organizations; it is a necessity. Observe the interplay of traditional and social media; get to know the channels, and study the way people consume information. Before you can establish practical company usage and consequences of misuse, you must first understand how social media works.

2. Learn From the Path of Those Before You
social media

Not convinced that your company needs a social media policy?

Neither was Domino’s Pizza until two of their employees posted a video of themselves on YouTube doing unhygienic things to customer’s pizza. Social media exploded and the video received over 1 million views. The pair were charged and jailed for delivering prohibited foods, the company’s sales dropped 3 percent, and the franchise location where the video was made went out of business five months later.

Gap and American Apparel felt the backlash when both tried to take advantage of a national disaster to boost sales.

StubHub also felt the repercussion of a single inappropriate comment from an employee when the following, clearly unauthorized tweet was sent:

best practices for social media

3. Always Be Listening For Signs of Social Danger

Unique Leadership Axiom: know the subtle details of the environment in which you operate; they will give you warning of unwanted change.” ~U.S. Army

Situation awareness and a good compass are key elements in social survival. You have to always be listening to your environment and looking for sudden changes in the sounds… or mentions of your brand. Use a listening dashboard, like Hootsuite, to constantly monitor online conversations regarding your brand. Along with protection, it will help you enhance audience engagement, monitor the competitive landscape, and respond to your customers in a timely manner. Visit Listen Up! for a downloadable social listening checklist.

4. Arm Yourself with a Social Media Policy

Regardless of size, employee-count, or profit margin, all companies should be equipping new hires, existing staff and associates with a comprehensive map of social boundaries including: what they should and should not discuss, appropriate practices, and emergency response procedures.

The two main reasons to create a social media policy are:

• Limit company legal risks and protect against unwanted brand exposure.
• Empower employees and associates to become brand evangelists.

An effective social media policy should address the following users:

• Employees posting messages on behalf of the company.
• External agencies employed to help enhance and manage social media.
• Staff members using their personal social media accounts (and who may mention company-related issues).
• Those responding to customer feedback, service requests, questions and negative comments.
• Affiliates making use of company materials for self-promotion.

5. How to Begin Drafting a Social Media Policy

Take a look at what other companies are doing. Visit Social Media Governance to reference an online database of over 245 social media policies of today’s top brands, compiled by Chris Boudreaux.

For a guided step-by-step tour visit the Policy Tool For Social Media Wizard.

Once your policy is complete and ready for use, you should distribute a print copy to all staff members and associates. Also provide ongoing training to educate them on appropriate personal and professional use and when usage requires disclosure.

Remember, too, it is important to continually revisit your social media policy to keep your policy relevant and accurate.