Why and How to Develop and Implement a Social Media Policy

Mallory Scudder | @MalloryScudder and Mary B. Adams | @LadyMissMBA

Social media policies are essential in establishing clear guidelines for everyone communicating and interacting on social media on behalf of the company. Having a policy is especially important when a business has multiple people communicating on social media platforms, whether employees, interns, an external team, or any combination of those. These people are the voice of your organization, therefore they need to know how to speak on behalf of it.

There are many different types of social media policies. Some  establish specific guidelines on response times, how to handle complaints, and whether or not phrases like ‘that sucks’ are permissible. Some policies outline steps to take in the unlikely event of a PR crisis. Others establish protocol that is less strict, providing the social media team flexibility. Moreover, your policy becomes a blueprint for acceptable communication styles, tone and ethics. Although there are plenty of generic policies available, yours will be more effective when it is in sync with your mission and values.

Whom to involve when creating a social media policy

Generally those who are involved from the beginning are more likely to buy in and adhere to the policy. Invite all departments to participate in drafting the social media policy. We suggest including the CEO, HR director, IT director, marketing/development director, program/department director, a social media–savvy lawyer and at least one “digital native” -- a 15-25 year old brought up using digital tools, i.e. someone who is no doubt more at ease using social media than other (older) generations on staff.

What to include in your social media policy

  • Your mission statement

  • Your goals: be specific. Do you want to increase brand awareness or promote a new product or service? Looking to conquer a new market?

  • Your “voice” or tone: Are you funny and witty, formal/professional, sarcastic, provocative? This will facilitate consistent, coherent communications that accurately embodying the brand

  • Appropriate time limits, actions and best practices: It is important to let your your team know how and how soon they need to respond to customers. What are appropriate reactions to general praise, questions, suggestions? Provide “best practices” and give examples of what has worked in the past. Give steps that need to be taken to address negative comments, profanity, or complaints

  • Roles and responsibilities: Who is in charge of what and when? Consider creating an organizational chart in case something needs to be escalated after hours or on a weekend so that everyone knows whom to contact and how to reach that person

  • Platform-specific guidelines. Depending on how many social media vehicles you are using, you may have to provide specific guidelines. For example response times on Facebook may be different from on Twitter, Instagram or blogs

Consider having your legal team look over the policy before you roll it out.

How to communicate the policy to staff

Don’t underestimate the importance of this step! Making sure everyone understands the policy is crucial to success. Do not simply email the policy in an attachment and expect everyone to then immediately put it to use. Chances are, they won’t even read it! Instead, review and discuss it line by line with all staff members in person or in a video conference. Give everyone the opportunity to ask questions or get clarification if needed. This will greatly increase cooperation and adoption.

The policy should also still be available in written form for quick reference on shared company drives or on paper hung in work stations. Don’t hesitate to keep in touch regularly following the launch to find out how it is going. And just as social media is constantly changing, this is not a “one and done” task. It is something that will need to be revisited frequently, about every six months, according to Social Media Examiner.

For inspiration, check out the social media policies of The Coca Cola Company and Wal-Mart. Too busy to do it yourself? There is help! We would be happy to create an effective social media policy for you as well as an action plan for implementing it. Call us today at (469) 248-0616.

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