For a lot of us, social media is spontaneous and at times rewarding. It can be a place where anything goes. A place where people can truly be themselves. However, there are a few rules when it comes to making sure that your business's social media presence is positive. Your social media goal will make sure that your brand-consistent and customer-focused. This is where a social media policy comes into play. But if you haven't come up with one before, it might be a little difficult to figure out where to start. Don't worry though! Today we're sharing a few tips (and insights) when it comes to creating social media policies. Let's get started...
How To Create A Social Media Policy
Step #1 - Gather Your Team
Let's face it. A social media policy can't be written by just one person. The policy you create needs to be unique to your organization and should include input from a variety of people with various skill sets. A team ensures that key areas of risk are handled properly. This way any future challenges will be dealt with appropriately.
Don't worry if every member isn't aware of the intimate details of your social media activities. It isn't necessary. However this is what's important: if a crisis occurs, what information does your team need to know about social media landscapes and organization values? This is important because they need to know how to accurately respond.
Step #2 - Create Culture
Social media is organic and it changes every day. Your policy should be one based on innovation, sharing of ideas, problem-solving and creativity. There is a direct link between internal organizational culture and policies. So as you write your policies, include processes that reinforce culture and learning. Here are some questions to consider:
- Who is on your social media team?
- How often do they meet?
- Who will handle any problems?
- Will you evaluate successes and learn from failures?
In your policies, you can acknowledge the social media values of transparency, consistency, connection, creativity, and promptness. With these values in mind, you can build processes that emphasize training, support, and evaluation.
Step #3 - Don't Reinvent the Wheel
You probably already have internal policies in place that apply to social media. For example, policies about privacy, photo consents, internet usage, and cell phone usage. If so, it's a good idea to reference these in your social media policies. However, you should take special note of any differences in application.
For instance, your cell phone policy might not cover the use of photos from cell phone cameras. Thanks to geotagging, photos taken by cell phones almost universally contain digital coding which shows your exact location on the date and time of the photo. Whenever you upload a photo from a phone, you might give away more information than intended.
A social media policy could require staff to use software to remove the geotags from their photos before they post them.
Step #4 - Create Two Policies
Most of all, it's a good idea to have two social media profiles. One for employees that use social media for their job and one for employees that use social media in their personal lives.
The first policy should focus on job-related activities. Make sure to cover everything: define your team, articulate roles, and responsibilities. Maybe focus on brand guidelines and clear up which internal and external policies must be in line with.
As for the second policy, it should focus on employees who use social media in their personal lives. You can give information about what they can and can't say about your company on their platforms. However, it's a bad idea to require employees to use their own personal social media accounts to connect with your company online. They may choose to do so, but it should really be THEIR choice.
The steps above are a great place to start when it comes to a social media policy. However, you should also consider the following social interactions before you start on your policies.
Four Types of Social Interactions Businesses Might Encounter and How to Respond to Them AKA the Do's and Don'ts of Social Media Policies
The rise of social media has made it even easier for customers to communicate with businesses. However, since this communication is done in a public forum, it's important to handle it correctly. Let's take a look at some instances where a social media policy would come into play.
Social Interaction #1: A Customer Posts A Bad Review of Your Business
- Wait until you're calm. Don't respond with anything you'll regret later.
- Write a response to reviews on popular sites posted by genuine customers.
- Research the incident so you have all the facts.
- Be positive, polite and professional in all of your correspondences.
- Explain what you'll do to rectify the situation.
- Learn from the negative review but don't dwell on it.
- Respond to irrational posters, frequent complainers and small-time bloggers who give undue criticism.
- Break the site's rules of business conduct.
- Ask for the comment to be removed.
- Post your own fake positive reviews to counteract the negative ones. A lot of sites have a way to detect fake reviews.
Social Interaction #2: A Customer Complains About Your Product or Service
- Respond publicly and quickly. This lets the community know you take complaints seriously.
- Encourage the customer to discuss the issue privately. Via Facebook, email or over the phone.
- Work with customer to understand the issue and then solve the problem.
- Be consistent. Customers with the same problem should not be compensated differently.
- Get upset. It's important to remain positive and professional.
- Engage with trolls. Try to resolve every issue, but if you don't get anywhere it's best to ignore.
- Ignore legitimate complaints. When you ignore a problem you lose the chance to fix it.
- Use humor. It's best to respond with endearment. Humor has the potential to offend.
- Hide or delete honest complaints. This undermines your credibility and the trust people have in you.
Social Interaction #3: A Customer Praises Your Business
- Sincerely thank the customer for their kind words.
- Keep it short. You don't want to appear arrogant.
- Personalize the response. Use the customer's name and refer back to something they said in the comment.
- Try to respond within two days.
- Write a form response. Customer will feel a lot more valued when they see a human side.
- Prioritize positive reviews over negative ones. If you don't have time to respond to every comment, negative ones have priority over positive ones.
Social Media Situation #4: A Customer Has A Question for Your Company
- Respond quickly. Customers expect quick service and it's important to provide it.
- Ensure that the right person replies to the question. That way the issue can be dealt with promptly.
- Just provide a link to where the customer can find the answer to their question. Instead, give them the information so they don't need to search for it themselves.
- Use jargon. Customers are ordinary people asking a question they don't have the answer to.
- Direct your customers to another platform. If they ask a question on Facebook, it should be answered on Facebook.
The key is to handle your social media interactions with customers the right way. As a result, it can help your business grow and boost brand loyalty. If you still need more social media policy inspiration, you'll find some excerpts from the social media policies of world-famous brands. Most of all, these might help you to fine-tune your policy.
Policy Excerpts from Famous Brands
Coca-Cola - "Be a “scout” for compliments and criticism. Even if you are not an official online spokesperson for the Company, you are one of our most vital assets for monitoring the social media landscape."
The Takeaway: Let your employees report praise AND criticism when they use social media.
If you bring employees on board to represent your brand, you should also give them a way to report when criticism (or praise) appears online. Coca-Cola offers a dedicated e-mail address within their policy for employees to report customer comments. That way a social media specialist can get in touch with them. This helps them find feedback and deter other employees from responding themselves - which can be risky.
Walmart - "Twitter asks a very basic question of its users: “What’s happening?” And we know the answer to that question – we’re working every day to help people save money so they can live better."
The Takeaway: Address the consumers and the employees.
Although it isn't uncommon for large businesses to have explicit social media guidelines, their policy offers rules for different platforms. Rules the addresses both employees and consumers. They give specific directions for how to get a proper response. One that includes their dedicated tab on Facebook. As well as a list of all verified Walmart Twitter profiles for different purposes.
NPR - "Be circumspect about your behavior, even when the exchange feels private or anonymous. Even an email to a trusted recipient can be made public, with or without the recipient’s knowledge or consent."
The Takeaway: Treat each and every communication online in a tactful manner.
Because ANYTHING can go social. A security risk doesn't always involve password theft or account hijacking. It can occur when social media goes awry. This is why NPR’s policy notes that even private communications have the ability to go public. Whenever an employee hits "Send", it might be impossible to regain control of that information. Simply because there is nothing to stop recipients from sharing it.
Intel - "Be transparent. Your honesty – or dishonesty – will be quickly noticed in the social media environment."
The Takeaway: Don't misrepresent your affiliation with your business.
It's awesome when employees have the company's interests at heart. But it isn't great when results in employees acting in ways that could generate controversy. Or even legal trouble! This is why it isn't always a good idea to discuss their employer online. Intel encourages their employees to be honest and always disclose their affiliation with Intel whenever they post on social media. The company guides employees to include "Intel" in their social media handles. They even have a special hashtag for their postings: #iwork4intel
Kodak - "If you are going to work with social media, be involved in social media. Start your own Twitter account, Facebook page, read blogs and engage. That is the best way to understand the culture, tone, best practices, and protocol."
The Takeaway: Get involved in your industry or niche.
Ultimately, Kodak suggests that you engage in your niche. The best way to do that is to meet your audience and industry influencers where they're social, such as blogs and social media platforms. This works because you share posts that your target audience finds interesting. As a result, you'll come off as more authentic and gain more social traction. Which is a lot better than queuing up posts and forgetting about them.
Best Buy - "Basically, if you find yourself wondering if you can talk about something you learned at work – don’t. Follow Best Buy’s policies and live the company’s values and philosophies. They’re there for a reason."
The Takeaway: If you can’t find a rule in the guidelines that address an issue, it's best to act in good faith towards the company.
We all know that social media has a tendency to be spontaneous. A social media policy can't always anticipate certain things. This is why it's best to encourage employees to act in the best interest of the company's values and interests. You can't always predict what employees will post. However, you can remind them that common sense is a good idea. Especially when they can't find a specific rule that answers their question.
We hope this has given you some insight on social media policies. And that encourages you to create your own social media policies. Keep in mind that policies are there to help your employees. But honestly, if you just have a few ground rules, it's okay. What are your thoughts? What is your best advice for a company writing a social media policy? Let us know in the comments below, so we can discuss.