Social Media Policy in 5 Steps

by Mike Hanbery on March 16, 2010

in Business Social Media,Marketing,Social Media Policy

Posting a blog or a “tweet” on behalf of your company should be treated as if you called a press conference. If you’re using social media for your business—and you probably should—you need a policy statement.

As usual, Mashable provides good info on the subject. Sharlyn Lauby’s article, 10 Must Haves for your Social Media Policy, is a good primer. I’d caution, however, that before you implement all of her recommendations, take a hard look at what needs to be “policy,” and what is “best practice.”

We believe effective social media policies are:

  • Minimalist
  • Easily interpreted and enforced and
  • Do not require frequent updates.

Five steps to creating an effective and manageable Social Media Policy:

  1. Clearly state your goals and purposes for social media at the head of the policy statement. Lauby recommends this, and she’s absolutely correct. Limit the number of goals for the effort and don’t make them overly specific. If social media is a marketing effort, have marketing write the goals.
  2. Get the input and perspective of your staff before implementing policy. Make sure the policy writers are on the same page as the designers and implementors.
  3. Review, delineate and redact what aspects need to be written in as “policy.” While we don’t argue with the importance or accuracy of any of Lauby’s premises, we would prefer to impart acumen through training wherever possible and respectfully suggest some of her “policy” recommendations are more suited to guidelines and expectations for best practices.  (Education before legislation.) Lauby addresses this and more in an earlier post we strongly recommend.
  4. Wherever possible, reference existing policies, e.g. for media contact, confidential and proprietary information (Lauby addresses this also). Don’t make redundant or conflicting policies. Don’t create unnecessary paperwork. We implore our clients to treat social media as an integrated piece of operations. Ostracizing it dooms your efforts to failure, regardless of how well-constructed your policy may be.
  5. Before declaring the policy in place and abiding, review the language to ensure it does not restrict the company or its employees from achieving the stated goals. Walk through the processes and scenarios your agents will create and encounter to insure your policy stands in alignment and not in contradiction with your goals. Make sure the lawyers and scaredy-cats haven’t hijacked your marketing efforts in the course of writing the rule book. You need to be able to play and win the game. (For a real world example of this, invite your financial planner over for dinner and ask her why she hates her company’s compliance department.)

A couple of other resources before we call it a post:

  • An example of a social media policy. Okay so this one was written by lawyers. Solid, well-meaning lawyers, sure, but if you want anyone to abide by your policy and not be scared to act, you can copy this but make sure your “delete” key is good and ready as you walk through the five steps above. Lauby’s 10 Must Haves… article provides a fabulous example of a minimalist policy. Again, probably not copy and paste material as the content reflects a particular culture and if your staff hasn’t had Six Sigma training you might not be able to expect them to know what the 5 Why’s are, but.
  • Right now, if you don’t have a social media policy, you are firmly in the majority. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t act on it…especially now that the whole “how to” has been laid out for you. You’d surely prefer to deal with a social media consultant you hired than someone else’s attorney.

Finally—and you’ve heard this from us before—social media, due to its newness, tends to spur over-think. Don’t.


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  • uberVU – social comments

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  • JPS

    Great tips. We now have a social media policy for the first time. Took about 10 minutes! Younger applicants find it amazing that we use social media at all…like we're "old people" that just don't get it. They will fall out of their chairs when they see we actually have a policy on it.

  • mhanbery

    Thanks JP. It would make sense for a safety company to be a leader in risk management. A combination of enforceable policy, effective hiring practices and training can deliver.

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