The Social Media Policy – not just for the big players

Blog post written by Georgina Coates who is Social Media Manager at UK based, integrated communications agency Kindred. Follow George on Twitter @GeorgieC and catch her own social media thoughts at: What’s a Girl to Do?
So you are getting excited about your social media strategy, you have your creative execution standing by and are ready to start counting fans and followers.  Being a small to medium sized business you may not have thought about a Social Media Policy. That’s something only for large corporations and agencies, not you, right?  Wrong.

All businesses should make a plan

Before I hear a collective virtual *sigh*, a social media policy is essential for any business who wants to get online – no matter how small. This is because in using online platforms to communicate, you are also unveiling a network of profiles that you may never knew existed (or did, but which never seemed important) – the social profiles of employees past and present.

And this doesn’t just mean Facebook. You may have employees who are active on Twitter, LinkedIn (a recruitment agency’s paradise), Foursquare, write their own blog or contribute to other media. All these need to be considerations when creating a presence for your business online, even more so now with Google surfacing results from social media channels.

Secure coherence

If you are about to embark on a social media plan for you business, then designing a company policy should be the starting point to understanding the level of commitment and integration you want, and realistically can implement. It should be designed to ensure that your business is putting out a coherent message. It should offer insight into the language and tone to use within differing environments, i.e. Facebook vs Linked In. Additionally, it should give guidelines on maximising positive interactions whilst reducing any negative sentiment. Employees should be made aware of the visibility of their posts, (text, images, videos) and the negative impact these could have on their place of work – be it their employer, other colleagues or clients.

Empower your employees

Although this all sounds incredibly restrictive – it shouldn’t be. A good social media policy should empower employees to be online and understand how different channels work. It should offer guidance on how to use channels smartly (whilst being mindful of who could be reading their posts). The document should be updated quarterly in line with platform changes and company policy changes. Most importantly, make sure it is visible to all and if anybody has any questions there is someone who is able to explain clearly why the guidelines have been put in place.

Although there are numerous templates available online, no size fits all. Some companies have to have stringent policies in place (sometimes hundreds of pages long) and others can afford to be more flexible and encourage staff to commit to social media on behalf of the company.

No matter what, make the document manageable and appropriate to your business needs. Taking the plunge into social media should be based on a strong rationale which all your employees should understand. No matter how big or small the business, this understanding is essential to ensuring that strategy is implemented effectively and you are minimising any negative backlash in a sensible and process driven way.

 

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.