6 Tips to Help You Draft a Powerful Social Media Policy

6 Tips to Help You Draft a Powerful Social Media Policy

It's more likely than not that your organization is present on social media. If it isn't, this is the last call to set up social media profiles and start enjoying all the benefits brought by social marketing. Needless to say, this kind of marketing can also produce terrible disasters – as the New Year unfolds, you'll see posts listing the worst social media gaffes pop up all over the web.

A corporate social media policy is basically a collection of guidelines which help a team to manage company profiles and deal with difficult or surprising situations. It's a document that shows what kind of behaviors aren't acceptable and where's that line no employee should ever cross when posting on the behalf of the organization. Here are 6 key tips to help you draft your social media policy and avoid PR disasters.

1. Consider creating more than one policy

For many marketers, the best practice is to come up with two social media policies. One is meant for employees authorized to post as the organization, and the other for all the employees who use social media in their personal lives.

The policy for professional social media use should be all about delineating key responsibilities, assigning roles to your team, giving a quick overview of branding strategy and clarifying all policies employees need to comply with to post on the behalf of the organization.

The second policy is just as important – you probably realize that your employees are the best brand ambassadors you can get. By showing behind the scenes content and posting about their jobs, they build an awareness of your employer brand. These employees use social media in their personal lives, so you should give them precise information about what they can and cannot say about the company. Don't make it sound like orders, but suggestions and helpful advice. For the sake of clarity, list all behaviors which aren't tolerated at the organization.

2. Build a social media culture

Social media is the most natural of all media out there. It's incredibly dynamic and it changes its shape every day. If you draft a strict and bureaucratic policy, it won't work to your favor. Instead, try to assume an approach for building a real social media culture – a culture of innovation and creative problem-solving. Make sure that your policy reflects and shapes this culture.

This is also the place where you can foster a culture of learning and evaluation. Make sure to delineate the dynamic of your social media team. Define who is part of the team, how often they meet to discuss and how the organization documents group learning or learns from its failures. Values like consistency and transparency should lead your policy.

3. Seek feedback from your team

It's clear that you cannot write your social media policy on your own. A working policy will include input from various people inside the organization. When drafting the document, make sure to reach out to various groups and ask them for feedback. This kind of team approach ensures proper risk management and inspires the creation of efficient strategies addressing future challenges.

Who should you involve in drafting a social media policy? Key executives ranging from the CEO to HR and IT directors, as well as your marketing or development director. You should also consult with a lawyer who knows the reality of social media and a couple of people who are simply digital natives. Not every member needs to be fully informed about the details of your policy – you'll benefit from their expertise when drafting potential crisis response scenarios to help your social media team deal with tricky situations.

4. Focus on the big picture

Social media changes all the time, so if you choose to focus your policy on a single network, you're making a huge mistake. Your policy will quickly get outdated and irrelevant to your social marketing efforts. That's why you should concentrate on the big picture – the general overview of roles and responsibilities, main do's and don'ts, and key values driving your connection with the audience. It's a good idea to include separate sets of guidelines for the specifics of various social networks – they'll save lots of time in the event of staff turnover.

5. Foster employee education

Given that the boundaries between our personal and professional lives are gradually blurring, there are many employees who don't fully realize the consequences of such privacy limitations. Many embarrassing social media gaffes appear because of pure ignorance – that's why you should ensure that your employees are fully aware of the real-life consequences of their behaviors in the virtual world. Educate them on internet security, building an online reputation, and protecting themselves from cybercrime or identity theft. You should also provide job-related training to people who will be posting on the organization’s behalf. Your commitment to employee education will show how you respect and value your team.

6. Review your policy on a regular basis

The internet is under constant transformation and within a month, some of your old rules might be completely outdated. That's why you should review your policy from time to time, asking yourself whether it's still relevant. Maybe it's time to add something new to it? Does it help your team in their daily tasks? Are there any legal updates that apply to this field? All this is key to ensuring that your policy has a purpose and brings benefits to social marketing of the company.

It's safe to say that all social media policies are different. While some focus on providing clear guidance and response scenarios to social media managers, others concentrate on the legal matters, showing how to avoid committing a serious mistake that might put a brand's reputation at risk.

All in all, you should remember that every single social media interaction is unique and there's no possible way of fully controlling such exchanges. Social media carries significant risks, but it also holds many promises. As long as brands will keep on using social networks for communicating with their audiences, we'll witness PR gaffes happening here and there. But that's simply one of the risks of the amazing real-time marketing spontaneity offered by social media.

Carol Williams is team member at Navel Oranges - a fruit shipping company from Florida. She combines her passion and background in PR and marketing with her love for writing.

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