How to Create a Watertight Social Media Policy
Written by Patrick Foster from Eccommerce Tips
Social media is an essential part of marketing, allowing you to promote your brand and engage with potential and existing customers online. But when you have such a direct line of communication with your customers, small mistakes can sometimes snowball into full-blown PR crises.
By putting a clear social media policy in place, your employees and marketing team will know exactly how to interact with customers on social media. In turn, you’ll protect your business’s reputation and safety.
In this short guide, you’ll find everything you need to create a watertight social media policy and implement it across your business.
What is a social media policy?
Simply put, it’s a code of conduct. A social media policy document provides guidelines for how a business and its employees should behave online. It sets out rules for what’s appropriate and what isn’t, such as the type of language that can be used on social media, or what type of information should and shouldn’t be shared.
Your social media policy can take many forms, from a short, easily digestible presentation to a longer written document. What matters is that it provides your employees with straightforward instructions to follow when posting on behalf of (or about) your business online.
Why you need a social media policy
There are many, many horror stories out there about social media going wrong. Small local businesses and global companies alike should take measures to protect themselves from the dangers of social media mishaps. Here are three key benefits of having a social media policy in place:
1. Protect your business from security threats and legal complaints
A well-implemented social media policy helps keep sensitive data and information safe from potential threats, such as hacking and viruses. Your policy can help educate your employees on the dangers of malware and best practices to follow online.
What’s more, making sure your employees are aware of issues, such as copyright and privacy (and that they know how to avoid difficult situations, or what to do if they make a mistake), can protect you from any potential legal troubles.
2. Preserve your reputation and turn your employees into brand ambassadors
Obviously, you can’t control what your employees publish on their personal social media accounts. But your employees should know how their personal opinions and actions might affect your company.
For example, Coca-Cola’s social media policy states: “Anything you post that can potentially tarnish the Company’s image will ultimately be your responsibility. We do encourage you to participate in the online social media space, but urge you to do so properly, exercising sound judgment and common sense.”
But it’s not all about the negatives! A social media policy also helps employees understand how to promote your brand on social media or safely share company content online. It can turn social media into the perfect employee advocacy tool.
3. Help with branding and consistency
When multiple people manage your social media accounts, the brand message can get lost. This is often the case with new businesses, such as startups or franchises that can easily change hands, because the brand voice has not been fully established.
But while different people have different writing styles and voices, a social media policy can help define your brand’s tone of voice and create consistency across all platforms.
It’s now all about word choice either. Visual branding should also be considered. Your policy should clearly outline what images, videos, and other media are suitable for your company’s profile to help community managers keep branding streamlined.
How to create your social media policy
What should a social media policy document include? It varies depending on your industry, the size of your company, and more. But the main areas to touch on should be:
1. Appropriate conduct
This should include your company’s regulations for employee conduct on social media. For example, not swearing when posting from the company’s account, or using the company’s name while stating controversial opinions.
You may want to give instructions on things like tone of voice and identity, customer interaction, confidentiality and customer privacy, and what’s acceptable for employees to post on their personal social media profiles. The Royal Veterinary College’s policy is a great example of how it regulates personal social media use.
2. Cybersecurity and legal risks
Your social media policy should help educate employees on online safety and legal matters which may arise if social media is used improperly, as well as provide clear guidelines on how employees should handle any concerns. Some topics you may want to cover are copyright laws, data protection (think GDPR!), password policies, and online risks such as viruses, phishing and scams.
3. Roles, responsibilities and accountability
Who is responsible for posting from your company’s social media profiles? Who is allowed to reply to customer comments and messages? How do you tackle negative reviews?
Clearly defining roles and responsibilities in your policy will help ensure your employees know when they can and can’t engage with customers online, and who may be responsible in case something does go wrong. (But we’re hoping it won’t!)
How to enforce your social media policy
Your document is drafted and ready to go, but how can you effectively communicate your policy to your employees without overwhelming them with new rules and regulations? Two words: continuous training.
First, make sure that every employee reads the policy. Then, you may want to provide your employees with webinars or short training sessions to go through the policy with your marketing and security teams. Offer social media training to new employees (as well as refresher courses for your longer-established members of staff) and regularly remind your team why your social media policy is so important.
One last thing to remember once your new, shiny social media policy is in place: you’ll need to come back to it and update it regularly. The online world is vast and fast-changing, and this will impact how you present your business on social media.
It’s clear social media is here to stay, and as your business grows, so will your online following. A clear, comprehensive policy is essential to promote and protect your business online. Without rules in place, your employees won’t know what is and isn’t appropriate. Eliminate the guesswork and help keep your business on social media’s good side.
Want to know how to make the most of social media marketing? Check out this infographic.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips — an industry-leading ecommerce blog that offers practical marketing advice so your business receives the exposure it deserves. Check out the latest posts on Twitter @myecommercetips.