Because social media is a real-time conversation and everyone in your small business is a potential spokesperson, it’s easy to see how things could go off the rails. In this video, digital and social media strategist Martin Waxman discusses the importance of having a social media policy and communicating it to your staff. And he gives you resources and examples of companies that do it well.
- [Voiceover] Social media is a two way conversation. That's one of the best things about it and also one of the scariest because you never know when something will go wrong. When it's done well, social media can humanize your small business and create a bond with your customers. But what happens if one of your employees takes that casual tone too far with your best customer and the fallout happens in public? This underscores the importance of having a social media policy and communicating it clearly to your staff.
Your social media policy offers a code of conduct for the way your company will behave online. It also sets the tone for your business's culture and online persona. For example, are you going to be serious and helpful, funny, critical, hard edge? It starts internally with the things you and your team members are saying. And then it extends outward by delineating the acceptable tone and language for all your company's online properties, including your blog or website, social media channels, and customer forum.
As you develop your social media policy, it's important to keep it straightforward and easy to understand. Some of the points you want to cover include acceptable behavior and language in your community, the importance of treating people with respect, accepting responsibility, honesty, transparency, community standards, and disclosure. Be clear about whether or not you moderate comments and what the criteria is for removing them.
For example, if you get a critical comment on your Facebook page, you should acknowledge it. Let people know what you'll do better next time and thank them for the feedback. Never get defensive or pick a fight. But if someone's comments are abusive or filled with inappropriate language, that's when it's usually okay to delete them. At some point, you'll want to run your social media policy by your lawyer to make sure you're not saying anything that can get you into trouble.
But don't let your lawyer turn the house rules into hard to understand legalese. A start up in Toronto got kudos from their users for translating their terms of service into plain english. They used two headings. Description of service and basically, or what that means. Here's a good reference from Social Media Governance, a site that lists various organizations' social media policies.
You can scroll through and check what many organizations have done. The point is write your social media policy in such a way that your staff and community will want to read it. Even a large company like Coca Cola has simplified its policy so anyone can understand it. And it gives you an idea of its culture. Here's an excerpt. Have fun but be smart. Use sound judgement and common sense.
Adhere to the company's values and follow the same company policies that you follow in the offline world. That's good advice for everyone.
- Using social media to listen to customers
- Setting goals
- Crafting a social media policy and a plan
- Creating shareable content
- Measuring your social media success