If you don’t think your business or organization needs a social media policy, you’ll probably want to reconsider after hearing the case made by Brad Cebulski and Brandon Lemke from BConnected.
“In our opinion, people need direction,” they said at the March Social Media Breakfast Madison event Wednesday at Turner Hall. “Social Media policy isn’t just about telling team members what they can’t too, it should also be about showing them what they can and should do.”
Brad said companies and organizations are sometimes reluctant to develop social media policies because they don’t have the time or don’t have social media knowledge.
But if you value your brand, and want to protect your image and your credibility, a social media policy is essential in today’s world. First and foremost, it helps prevent a social media catastrophe that could threaten your business. Second, if a catastrophe slips through, it gives you a strategy for limiting the damage and getting back on track.
Social media policies help maintain brand standards, prevent rogue team members from unintentionally (or intentionally) reflecting poorly on your brand, set expectations, and ease your fears, Brad and Brandon said.
“Fear is probably the number one negative driver,” Brad said. “The fear that somebody could lose all their business and their reviews would tank because one person said something wrong.”
An all too common problem, they said, is when a team member who has access to social accounts goes on “a rant,” or even picks a fight with a customer.
“Every person on your team from management on down represents your organization,” Brandon said. “There has to be some sort of line drawn for opinions and what you want people to discuss in and around your company.”
For that, he said, you need policies – and clear repercussions for violating the standards.
“Team members thrive when expectations are set,” Brad said.
The policy needs to address basic issues such as who can post, what can they post and where can they post. “Without policies,” Brandon said, “there are no known repercussions for being opinionated.”
Brad cited an infamous Tweet by a KitchenAid social media team member – on the KitchenAid account – who posted: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president.”
Part of the reason you have a social media policy is protection from your own organization, because people are human, Brad said.
Develop a policy, he said, not guidelines. A policy is mandatory, easier to enforce, can be “violated,” and sets a specific course of action.
How do you create a social media policy?
- Start with basics: What works and what are the key concepts? Find inspiration from trend-setters in your industry. Use high quality visuals. Stay engaging. Be cool. “Even though bigger brands in your industry have bigger budgets, that doesn’t mean your content across the board can’t be like theirs,” they said. “You just need to continuously learn and improve.”
- Identify the structure: Who are the players? Is your organization a standard hierarchy or flat across the board? Who are the most public figures in your organization? Who embodies your brand values the most? Which roles are least likely to turn over? Who has capacity in their schedule for 10 minutes per day? “You don’t have to involve everybody,” they said. “Be smart about it, and think about who is the most likely to succeed.”
- Identify your goals and values as a brand/company: What type of voice do you want your brand ambassadors to have: strength, inspiring, helpful, encouraging, thought-provoking, controversial? What are the key measurables you can put behind certain values on social: engagement, growth, response time, etc.? How do you want to look?
- Identify how you wish to enforce behaviors: The enforcement has to be adopted from the top down. Let it be known that there will be consequences for bad behavior.
- Develop a policy that empowers people to get involved – and then add in restrictions.
So what do you include in your social media policy?
- Philosophy of social media.
- Defining terms of social media.
- Can an employee include their organization in their personal account profile?
- What types of information should remain confidential on social media?
- Compliance with existing policies.
- Following the terms of service agreements on social media sites.
- Identify boundaries with job duties.
- Spell out the consequences if violations were to occur.
Having a comprehensive, clear social media policy is good for businesses and organizations, and good for their employees as well. No one should be discouraged from being online, Brad said, and as long as the employees have policies to follow they will feel more comfortable being online, where they can help advocate for your business or organization.
A well-crafted policy, Brad and Brandon said, will protect your business or organization against violations of your brand standards, help prevent public relations issues from developing, and reign in rogue team members, while creating expectations, engaging employees and heightening the user experience.
The bottom line? Your customers and supporters will enjoy their social media experience in a way that reinforces their positive experience with your company or organization.
Brad and Brandon’s presentation:
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