First, let’s get one thing straight. All companies should have a social media policy. Just as it was important for companies to establish policies for who can talk to traditional media, it is important to provide social media tools for marketing and employees’ communications.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there are two audiences for your small business’ social media policy: your employees and your social media team. Sometimes these are two completely different groups (like if you have an agency running your social media) and sometimes there is a lot of overlap. Let’s start with the social media team.
Social Media Guidelines for Your Social Media Team
Every good social media marketer should be aware of the company’s voice and strive to cultivate an online personality for it using the company’s brand guidelines. A great example of this is the interaction between @Oreo and @AMCTheatres on Twitter, two powerhouse brands that obviously have great social media policies. When Oreo tweeted about sneaking cookies into the movie theater, AMC gently reminded the brand that it’s against theater policy by replying “NOT COOL, COOKIE.” Witty and fun banter continued and garnered the brands hundreds of retweets. Oreo also had some fun with Twitter when the lights went out during the Super Bowl by reminding fans that “You can still dunk in the dark.” Their timeliness and nimbleness to respond so quickly is a true testament to the brand’s social media team.
The digital marketing manager for AMC Theatres, Shane Adams, wrote about the exchange with Oreo on his blog and gave some important reasons why social media policies should be flexible enough to allow the team not just to post, but to respond:
Trust – If you don’t trust the person(s) in charge of social media for your small business, don’t give them the keys to your kingdom. However, it is also important to note that giving trust also empowers your employees: “That ownership in what we do better equips myself and my colleagues to do amazing things,” says Adams.
Brand Voice – While your brand may not be as “fun” as movies or cookies, using your brand’s voice and communicating what is and is not acceptable goes a long way toward cultivating that trust.
Autonomy – Shane and his team at AMC Theatres and the social media team at Oreo would not have been able to respond as quickly and cleverly as they did if they did not have at least some autonomy to make decisions and embrace opportunities.
Social Media Guidelines for Employees
Management may not like it, but everyone is on social media in one form or another, and trying to restrict your employees’ access is basically like telling a teenager he’s not allowed to do something “because you said so.” They’re going to find a way to do it one way or another. So you’re better off embracing social media as an opportunity and providing some simple guidelines to keep your employees and your brand safe in the webosphere.
Similar to your social media team, trust is the biggest thing with employees. The bottom line is that if you don’t trust your employees, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place. Yes, social media and Internet usage has impacted productivity in the workplace. However, banning the offending sites will just send people scurrying to their smartphones where they’ll complain about the company in a public forum. By empowering your staff to make smart decisions, it shows you trust them and potentially allows you to expand your brand’s reach. After all, who better to promote your company than your own employees? Everyone in your company should be a brand ambassador.
Your social media policy for marketing and employee communications does not have to be longer than a couple of pages. In fact, the social media policy at HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company, is simply “use good judgment.” Here are five other examples of social media policies that HubSpot put together. In general, following brand guidelines, respecting the company’s privacy rules and differentiating employees’ opinions from the company’s communication are common practices.
Social media is still a new frontier and is quickly evolving. Your social media policy for your small business should be fluid enough to allow for growth, yet clearly communicate what your company will and will not tolerate. Trust and respect your employees, teach them about online safety, and they will reward you tenfold.
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