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.
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.