What is a social media policy and why is it important? According to an Inc. Magazine article in May 2011, “Whether your company is active on social media, your employees probably are. A social media policy outlines for employees the corporate guidelines or principles of communicating in the online world.” Here I have outlined some key reasons to consider implementing a social media policy. Depending on your company’s use of the socialsphere, you can adjust the amount of information to include and how general or specific the policy should be.
1) Vast Potential = Big Risk.
While social media offers a great potential to increase the brand awareness, recognition and authority of you business, it can also pose an unknown risk factor. Consider an employee who uses poor grammar or spelling, or worse – vocalizes strong political or religious viewpoints on the company blog. These scenarios can reflect unkindly on your brand and are hard to take back, after the fact. If you have a policy in place, there is a written and published record of the company’s stance.
2) Ban the Members Only Mentality
If your company’s entire online marketing strategy revolves around one individual and that person misses work for some reason, you don’t want to be stranded. If you have a social media policy in place, new team members can quickly and easily jump in and begin posting. Without a policy, there is a risk that members of the team will be intimidated by the idea of social media or worse, represent the company poorly.
3) Expect the Unexpected.
In a crisis or difficult time, Social Media can be an important way to connect with your community and customers. Several examples of unforeseen crisis include negative press about your company, executive team members or industry, product recalls or personal rants. Social media can offer a real time channel for public response, and a platform to field questions and issue updates. Without a policy in place, businesses run the risk of not being prepared in the event of an emergency or a PR crisis. If there is a policy, it is important to describe process and protocol for dealing with a crisis. This will help prepare your team and guide the messaging.
4) What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas
Many people are unsure how to draw lines in the social media sand between their personal and professional lives. A strong and effective social media policy will help employees navigate this sometimes unchartered territory. It is crucial that employees know when it is appropriate to post to the company social sites or blogs and how this impacts their personal profiles. Many employees don’t consider the use of the company name, customers, products etc. when they are on their own time. However, this can significantly impact the brand if it happens outside the company’s direction. Disclaimers, privacy settings and company brand guidelines should be spelled out clearly in the social media policy.