The Importance of a Social Media Policy

January 23, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

Having a social media policy in place may not seem that important to you. But remember this; if you are participating in social networking spaces, then a social media policy can be the difference between PR disaster and viral counter-campaign.

Let me quickly explain.

If employees haven’t been given clear guidelines on permissible social media use, then how do they know where to draw the line? Are they allowed to take it upon themselves to try to start a revolution and spam company content to everyone who has a Twitter account? Can they engage with clients on a personal level and merge conversation with gossip?

So to start with, lets go back to basics…

What is a Social Media Policy?

 

A social media policy is a corporate code of conduct that provides guidelines for employees who participate in social media domains. The objective of such a policy is to outline expectations for appropriate behavior and to ensure that employees will not discredit the company in any way.

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Why You Must Have a Social Media Policy

Consider this. New businesses are encouraged to have a business plan in place before launching a new venture. The theory is simple; fail to plan is planning to fail. Recycle this approach within a modern day social media environment and you will establish that it is even more important to prepare for if, or when, the worst happens. News travels so rapidly in social media that one single hiccup on your otherwise flawless strategy can damage your reputation beyond repair. And reputation is very easy to lose, and incredibly hard to regain.

The most common reason for social media related PR disasters is due to mistakes made by employees on company social accounts. With a robust social media policy in place, there will be contingencies ready for such circumstances. That being said, hopefully having easy-to-follow activity guidelines will ensure employees don’t make that initial mistake.

Social media is a team sport. In most cases, you will have multiple contributors working on your strategies . If there is no consistency or understanding between team members, then everyone will be shooting blind.

The Downside of Not Having a Social Media Policy

Social media can be risky business. There is an element of danger in asking employees to contribute towards social activity – how do you control such behavior and ensure they are working towards your marketing objectives effectively?

 

A sound policy will outline the do’s and don’t's expected from contributors. Let’s explore one example of how a brand reacted to a mistake they made in the social media environment.

 

McDonald’s Social Media Blunder

McDonald’s created a sponsored hashtag #McDStories on Twitter back in early 2012, asking users to tweet about positive dining experiences in it’s restaurants. Instead though, users joked about dog food and obesity.

McDonald’s pulled the plug on the campaign within just 2 hours, reacting quickly to such a storm of negative feedback. The Twitter universe was still tweeting about the abandoned hashtag for more than a week after it was removed, but the effects were minimalised with careful pre-disaster

coverage and social support. If McDonald’s had no social policy in place, this could have escalated dramatically.
6 Important Sections in a Social Media Policy

In order to be of any value to both a company and it’s employees, an effective social media policy should address at least the following important sections:

1. Outline of confidential information

2. Types of information employees can and cannot share online

3. The consequences of employees’ actions online

4. The proper way to engage with others online

5. Company culture

6. Educate employees (etiquette, practices etc.)

This form of written policy is essential, not just for employee safety, but also for creating routines of good practice in social activities and contributions. There needs to be clear communication on how employees should behave on social networks. Social media hasn’t been around for that long – we are still in the early stages of the social revolution and missteps happen all the time.

If you would like to read various examples of real life social media policies, then socialmediagovernance.com has a directory of useful resources that you can visit here. As you will see, its standard practice for companies and brands alike to have a robust social media policy in place.

Do you currently have a social media policy in place? What do you consider as the most important aspects of a social media policy?


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Category: Social Media

Stuart Davidson

Stuart Davidson()


Stuart is a freelance social and digital marketer from London, UK.
Stuart blogs at StuartJDavidson.com, where he
shares his marketing experiences working with over 50 businesses.
You can catch his free eBook
“How to Win in Social Media”
from his blog or
freelance website.


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