By Chris Zilles
For any small business, a social media policy should clearly outline how all employees should conduct themselves online – such as the type of content they can post, how they should interact with people online, and how they should respond to any negative crisis event. Here are several key guidelines on how to develop a social media policy for your business.
Encourage Employee Participation
First and foremost, social media policy should encourage, not discourage, online activity. If you think about most corporate policies, they describe what you can’t do, not what you can do (e.g. you can’t take more than X days of vacation each year). So you have to take a different approach with social media. You should clearly encourage employees to engage online and to practice common sense while doing so.
Establish Basic Guidelines for Social Media Use
You should establish certain “rules of the road” for social media use. For example, if employees are posting content via their own social media accounts, they should make clear what their relationship to the company. For example, say that your company has just released a fantastic new product, and your employees want to talk about it via social media. They should clearly point out that they are employees of the company, and what their role is. This prevents any awkward situations, where it appears that a company is “hyping” its own products using stealth social media accounts.
Focus on Common Sense Principles
It’s tempting to try to create a massive, 30-page document outlining every possible situation on social media and how employees should act. But guess what? That’s self-defeating for two key reasons. One, nobody is going to read a boring 30-page document. Two, social media is constantly evolving. As soon as you think you’ve covered everything possible, a new social media use case will appear.
So, focus more on common sense principles – and keep it brief. For example, popular retailer Adidas has a simple, two-page document. It focuses on common sense principles. For example, you have to be careful about non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements on social media – if you have a super-secret product about to launch, you don’t want your employees posting Instagram photos of it!
Include Guidelines on Dealing with Crises
Sooner or later, your company will have to deal with a social media crisis. And you will want your employees to know how to deal with it. For example, some companies designate a single person to be the point of contact for any social media crisis. Others tell their employees to respond immediately to any crisis. Adidas, for example, tells its employees that they have to be “the first to respond to a mistake.” The goal, of course, is to contain any fire so that it doesn’t become a conflagration.
With these basic guidelines, it’s possible to create a flexible and effective social media policy. Remember – your goal is not to list every possible contingency, it’s to provide a framework for action. You should empower employees to share their enthusiasm and energy, not make them jump through a lot of hoops to get the word out about your company.
*This post originally appeared on socialmedia hq.