Six Considerations When Creating a Social Media Policy

June 22, 2012 Comments
Six Considerations When Creating a Social Media Policy

I am a big proponent of empowering and enabling employees to use social media in their day-to-day work, but as Joey Strawn said in his recent post Maybe Your Employees Are Too Stupid for Social CRM #sCRM – “opening the social communications floodgates and leaving your employees alone to navigate the waters is also asking for trouble.”

In a previous post I talked about the importance of process for social media practitioners to streamline workflow and provide direction quickly for certain situations. Process definition along with training and social media guidelines or policies is crucial to ramping up your employee ambassadors without increasing the risk to your company.  Social media “governance” may not be glamorous or sexy but it is integral in enabling your employees to engage on social channels.

In this post I want to talk about the key steps to success when developing your social media policy. Note: A lot has been written already on what to include (or not include) and you can find many examples of policies online so I will not speak to content other than keep it brief, and simplify as much as possible.

(1) Identify who and what the policy is for

Is the policy directed at all employees? Or a specific subset – perhaps employees who manage official brand accounts or executives who may be more visible as spokespeople. Is the policy to guide your employees when they represent the brand or when they use social media for their own personal reasons?

(2) Work with key partners to get it right

You may know social media but there are other departments that need to weigh in on you social media policy. Don’t write the policy in a bubble and expect immediate approvals and alignment. Involve key teams in your organization that can ensure you are protecting your employees and company, and able to implement and enforce the policy. Involve legal, human resources, internal communications, IT and security from day one and your policy execution will be much smoother.

(3) Tie it into existing policies and guidelines

This is a fundamental step that is also the one that is missed most frequently. If you work for a large organization or even a smaller one – chances are there are already HR policies, a codes of conduct, or IT policies on electronic communications. Where it makes sense cross reference, and include key components of your social media policy in these existing documents.

(4) Define what to do if someone violates the policy

No point having a policy if you can’t enforce it. The policy should state what the consequences are if you violate the policy, and you should have a process for dealing with these situations. This includes monitoring social channels for employees going rogue. Ideally you find the situations before they go out of control. Monitoring and reaching out to employees who may have crossed the line to remind them of the policy is often enough to get them to think the next time they post, but work with legal and HR to determine what you will do in severe or ongoing situations.

(5) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Don’t just communicate when someone has messed-up, make sure you are constantly reminding employees of the policy you have implemented. This doesn’t mean monthly memos pointing them to the guidelines, get creative. Host a resource center where you can house best practices, and discussions where you can highlight the guidelines and expand on the tenets you have outlined in them. Run quizzes to test knowledge, create a video outlining the guidelines or write blog posts where you share case studies or examples where other companies have been burned due to lack of compliance or best practices in social media.

(6) Update Regularly

Keep your ear to the ground on things that will impact your policy. Track contraventions of the policy to help you identify where there are gaps or where they may not be clear to employees. Set a schedule every quarter, 6 months or year where you review policy and make any necessary revisions. You may want to ties these into revisions to other company policies.

What have you learned along the way of creating your social media policy? What roadblocks have you encountered?

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