An organization’s social media policy defines how your employees use and interact with social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and so on. As such, as well as laying down the law in terms of what is acceptable it should also guide, coach, mentor and provide useful resources to enable your staff to use social media channels appropriately. By “social media” channels I include those that you might create yourself – such as your social intranet, social extranet or whatever. Knowing where the lines are and encouraging your staff to stick to them is key.
To help you in this endeavour I propose you follow these steps:
- Define the scope of the policy
- Product names, referrals to the organisation
- Online names
- Approval process
- Crisis-management plan
1. Define the scope of the policy
You need to be specific here and explain to the readers what the policy covers – name networks, solutions, systems. Does this policy cover internal networks, external networks or both?
2. Product names, referrals to the organization
Without turning it into a branding manual, you need to ensure that your staff are talking about you in the right way. If there are accepted abbreviations for your organization then state these. Explain any special capitalization of product names,etc.
In most situations, unless you are paid to promote your organization to the outside world, make it clear that your employees online statements are their opinions only, and not necessarily those of the organization. Decide what “voice” they should use. When they are tweeting, are they tweeting as them, or your company? Are they using “we” when referring to your organization or, “they”, or the company name? Give examples of the sort of voice and tone you feel to be appropriate.
The one that probably most people are concerned about is the one where a loose-lipped employee spills the beans on an unannounced policy, product, service, whatever. Think about what controls you have in place right now to control list in your organization: what prevents your staff from speaking to, say, a trade magazine, journalist, competitor, etc? The same applies in a social context and hence should appear in your governance statement.
I recommend that the marketing, sales, HR or some other department maintains a list of acceptable subjects to be discussed. This should be maintained, of course, in your social intranet and prominent socialites recommended to stay on top of it.
5. Online names
Do you allow your staff to use your company name in their online names or handles? e.g. @AcmeDave or similar (assuming your company is called Acme). Document what is an acceptable standard for online names.
This is something which should be easier to document as it is probably already in force in your email acceptable use policy. Obvious ones are around racist, sexist, profane, etc. language. You might want to go further and lock down the referral to other company’s products and services, comparisons, etc.
7. Approval process
Are you going to allow your staff to talk openly on the wires, or are you going to enforce a structure where tweets, blog posts, etc must be approved before being sent out? I suggest that this is probably not a practical solution and doesn’t send out a message of being transparent and nimble as a social business. A better approach would be to police the output and correct it if it goes wrong.
8. Crisis-management plan
Not one for your social governance policy perhaps, but a bit of fore-thought and planning around a social media incident is needed. There is now a large number of examples of how brand reputations were badly damaged by a poor, slow or inappropriate response to a social media issue.
The key to any crisis-management plan is timeliness of response. The quicker you are on it, the quicker you can act accordingly. Thus, you may wish to consider especially in external social situations having some form of sentiment analysis or similar alert you automagically when it detects your name being used to ill-effect.
There are some great tips and tricks which your staff would benefit from when working in social media. Twitter tricks, basic netiquette, blog posting tips, URL posting tips, etc. Consider how you will equip your staff with the tools to help them make your online social presence a good one.
Consider baking your social media guidelines and governance plan into your staff contracts. You most likely already have something in there about confidentiality, so why not include how the user acts and behaves online when representing your organization?
If you’re looking for some good examples I would of course point you in the direction of IBM’s excellent Social Media Policy:http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html but for a broader look around, check out Chris Lake’s article,here:http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/5049-16-social-media-guidelines-used-by-real-companies