04 Mar How to Write a Social Media Policy For Your Business
The most effective social media presence often gives the appearance of spontaneity. It feels unplanned and unconstrained, guided by the reflexive “life” of a brand. It’s the reason why influencers and micro-influencers are so effective—the presence of a live person behind a company feels organic. Consumers appreciate feeling as if the brand they admire is like a friend or confidante–a dependable presence who can give them trustworthy advice.
However, as much as you may want to project your business as if they were your customer’s best friend, behind the scenes your social media policy should be clearly delineated and controlled. Reputations have been tarnished by social media slip ups. In some cases, those mistakes result from mismanagement due to a lack of the proper tools and guidelines needed to safely navigate the social media sphere. Think Dolce & Gabbana’s co-founder personally taking to Instagram to call his followers “fat.” It wasn’t a good look.
A clear social media policy can help your business avoid such devastating faux pas and protect the future health of your company. Educating your employees on proper online conduct can help safeguard your reputation and avoid common pitfalls. The following tips will help you get started on writing a social media policy that works for your unique business.
It Takes a Village – Create a Task Force
No single person should be charged with crafting your company’s social media. Create a task force that includes not only your social media team, but also members of upper and middle management. Marketing, IT, Programming, Legal, and your C-suite should all be involved in signing off on appropriate social messaging and content. This team should be responsible for helping to craft your social media policy, with each member providing their unique perspective on effective stratagems. They should also help define your social media strategy. With several different, distinctive sets of eyes passing over social media posts, there is a smaller chance of something questionable slipping through the cracks.
Not everyone should have access to every social media channel. As with the Dolce & Gabbana slip up mentioned above, your policy should clearly outline the responsibilities of individual employees. Just because the CEO is a member of the social media task force, it does not mean they should be charged with responding to online comments. By that same token, the person crafting a social media post may not be the same person who handles a social media crisis situation. Clearly define each team member’s role and permission levels along the social media chain.
Sign-offs, wherein employees respond to online comments and leave their name or initials, have become a ubiquitous feature in the comments section of social media. It’s a much easier method for tracking commentary from social media team members. Sign-offs also foster a sense of accountability within your team, and forward the idea of your company’s transparency in the cybersphere. Be clear about who has the right to speak on your company’s behalf, and in which online spaces. This should include how employees are permitted to speak about your business within their personal social media channels.
Craft a Crisis Plan
Slip ups are inevitable, so it’s best to prepare your business in advance. Craft a crisis plan with a well defined chain of actions that will secure and seal the radius of the event. This plan may start with your direct social media outfit but should expand outward to include public relations and legal experts, as well as upper management. A single person shouldn’t have to default to an impromptu response to a troubling situation—this is where messy mistakes get even messier. Provide a comprehensive path that ensures a clean resolution and protects your business from legal issues at the same time. Check out our blog post on how to prepare for a crisis for more information.
Be Clear on Copyright
In a world where reposting is de rigueur, the issue of copyright and trademark can feel a little muddled. Make sure your employees understand when an image or writing must be attributed to its owner, and when their content can be considered “fair use” or “creative commons.” The World Intellectual Property Organization has a primer to help educate on copyright. Usually, it’s enough to instruct your managers to ask for permission first, but they should be apprised of the law just to be safe. Create a standardized protocol for how to handle reposts with comprehensive steps for your social media managers to follow, from asking for permission to applying attribution.
Internal vs. External Platforms
Nowadays, everyone has a social media presence. Define the content you deem acceptable for your company’s social media platform as well as your individual employees’ social media platforms. A pervasive example of an employee differentiating between their private social media presence and their employer is illustrated in the “opinions expressed herein are my own” verbiage you see frequently on personal profiles. Advocate for personal responsibility on their own profiles, but also define what is and is not acceptable language and imagery. This can include obscenities, hate speech, harassment, ethnic slurs, and other online behavior. Crafting a Code of Conduct for your business is a great first step in this regard. It might also help to create two social media policies—one that addresses a code of conduct for your company’s social media channels, and one that specifically addresses a code of conduct for individual employees’ social media profiles.
Confidentiality and Privacy
Be clear about what can be shared online about your company’s internal information. If necessary, enact a confidentiality agreement that defines these parameters in exact terms. Whether it’s new product rollouts, trade secrets, clientele, or internal dramas, employees should understand the appropriate position to take. Much of it can be chalked up to “common sense,” but it’s best to leave nothing open to debate.
While it might be expensive to have a lawyer review your social media policy, a future lawsuit has the potential to be devastatingly more expensive. Once you have crafted your social media policy, have a lawyer with experience review the draft for any possible flags. It’s important to employ clear, distinct language—problems often arise in the gray areas, where meaning is subject to interpretation. A lawyer can help create a strong, iron-clad policy for your company.
Review Other Policies
You aren’t the first company to craft a social media policy. Look at what other comparable companies have already created to get started. It’s also good to review what larger companies have set in place to see that most social media policies follow a similar guideline. Transparency, as outlined above, is a key component of a good social media policy. As such, many social media policies are available online. Check out what Nordstrom, Coca-Cola, Fed-Ex, Best Buy, and Microsoft have outlined to see how you can employ the same strategies.
Social media is constantly changing and growing, so don’t expect your policy to remain the same. Be open to routinely updating your social media policy as time goes on. We hope we’ve made it easier to craft this important and necessary guideline for your business. For more information and assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us today!