Alexander Conroy

How to Develop a Social Media Policy in 10 Practical Steps

Social_Media_PolicyAs social media exploded over the last few years organization policies have not kept pace.  In fact until recently few organizations had formal social media policies and today the majority still do not have one. Among the organizations that have tackled this challenge there are three lines of thinking on social media policy:

  1. Comprehensive Policy: This camp believes Social Media Policies should be comprehensive with strict rules for employee use and content. Comprehensive social media policies often require approvals for blogs, posts, and content and involve strict oversight to ensure compliance with company policies, branding, and marketing messaging.
  2. Broad Guidelines: This approach and line of thinking favors establishing broad guidelines for employee use of and content on organization social networks, websites, and blogs. This approach relies on common sense on the part of both management and staff as well as trust. Another line of thinking with this approach is that existing organization policies already cover or can cover employee behavior and actions.  Note with this approach you should review and update your existing policies to cover social media use and content.
  3. Laissez-fairer: The thinking here is that there is no need for an organization Social Media Policy or that existing policies sufficiently cover this. This is a common approach in small and mid-size companies and organizations with an entrepreneurial culture.

What are my recommendations for developing a social media policy? Personally I favor the approach of developing guidelines for social media use.  My feeling is that strict rules inhibit creativity and kill any real conversation resulting in stiff uninteresting content that is pretty much corporate speak.  In addition it is very difficult to manage and enforce a strict policy where every post or blog must be approved.

10 Steps to Developing a Social Media Policy

  1. Determine which approach your organization will employ: Comprehinsive (strict) Policy or Social Media Guidelines (obviously those electing the third approach of no policy are already finished).  This seems simple enough, but for large organizations there could be different points of view as to what approach is best and what is required.  Make sure you involve all that will have a stake in this.
  2. Review existing organization policies: Do they conform to the current environment and law? Can existing policies be updated to cover social media or does your organization need a separate policy?
  3. Determine Key Policy Issues: What are you trying to accomplish, prevent, or control?  I recommend writing an outline of the key issues for your organization.  Again, for large organizations different departments will have very different concerns, make sure you solicit input and involvement from the appropriate departments or management.  For example, the concerns from of the marketing department will be very different from those of the legal and HR departments.
  4. Research: Review other social media policies (learn from those that have been down this path, my next blog have a list with links to examples of social media policies).
  5. Legal:  Yes, depending upon the size and scope of your organization legal and HR review may be required.  The obvious legal question is privacy and free speech, but there are also important issues such as trademark use, copyright, etc.  Review NRLB rulings on social media and employee personal use as these are the new rules of the road.
  6. Develop your Social Media Policy: Write your policy, keep it brief and succinct, use examples were possible.
  7. Training and Use Guidelines: This is a key part of your policy. Regardless of how well written your policy is, it is useless if your team is not well trained in social media and clearly understands your objectives.  Your training needs to include managers, HR, and others that may be involved in managing social media activities and explaining the policy.  Your entire management team should be familiar with the policy.
  8. Implementation: Time to roll it out and walk the talk.
  9. Engage:  Oddly and sadly this is where many fail.  Social media is all about engagement, actually talking to people and responding to them.  A one way way outbound billboard campaign will not engage the community.  Your campaign must be a two way interactive dialog.  This topic alone is an entire blog, more on this later…
  10. Monitor:  Monitor sounds ominous, but in this context it is a good practice.  It is vital that you monitor your social media campaign.  The discussion on your Facebook page, Twitter, and blog posts is your best and most immediate barometer for how your customers feel about your organization or brand and what they want.  It is your best feed back mechanism, make sure you take advantage of it and have a system in place to share the results and feedback with management. By monitoring the campaign you can adjust your course if necessary, change the tone and content if necessary and expand on what is working. Of course monitoring is of little use if you don’t have a reporting system.  Make sure you have a reporting system established as part of your policy where key management is kept up to date on your organization social media and what is going on in the world.