Prepare a Social Media Policy

by Blair Evan Ball on December 14, 2010

Social Media Mishaps Happen!

Who hasn’t said something on a personal blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, or on their Facebook wall that they haven’t regretted later? But, when it comes to a company’s reputation, what’s said on social media sites can be much more damaging.

  • Take the Domino’s debacle in April 2009. Two employees thought it would be funny to post a video on YouTube that showed them violating health codes while preparing food in a Domino’s kitchen in North Carolina.
  • The video garnered millions of views on YouTube, but the problem was the comments that disgusted customers were posting on Twitter. Domino’s was in danger of losing many loyal customers because they didn’t have a Twitter account and weren’t able to respond to the social media public right away.
  • Needless to say they started a Twitter account the next day to start fielding customer concerns.

Social Media doesn’t get people fired. PEOPLE GET PEOPLE FIRED!

While this incident is one of the more extreme cases of what can happen when employees represent your company on social media, it nevertheless is a warning to any company — private and public — to be informed about the potential risks of using social media for business. But that’s not to say there aren’t countless rewards for employees advocating for your brand on social media sites. There are numerous examples of companies profiting from social media, and it’s gaining momentum.

The Old Spice social media campaign was a big success.

  • The Twitter account accumulated tens of thousands of new followers
  • YouTube videos amassed hundreds of thousands of views.

If your company is active in this space, the first thing you need to consider is the issue of accountability and how much or how little reign your employees should be given.

Every company is going to differ on what type of engagement is acceptable, when it comes to your social media policies. Any company that has a social media presence these days can benefit from having some type of policy in place, but it need only include what is necessary to protect the company legally and financially.

Take the CEO of Zappos Tony Hsieh who has all 1800 employees with a Twitter account, and a basic social media policy.  TAKE CARE OF THE CUSTOMER! Those that wonder off the reservation Tony says we fire fast.

On the other end of the spectrum where there are more rules is Coca Cola.

Below I’ll list out the 10 Principles for Online Spokespeople & a link to download the social media policy from Coca-Cola.

  1. Be Certified in the Social Media Certification Program.
  2. Follow our Code of Business Conduct and all other Company policies.
  3. Be mindful that you are representing the Company.
  4. Fully disclose your affiliation with the Company.
  5. Keep records.
  6. When in doubt, do not post.
  7. Give credit where credit is due and don’t violate others’ rights.
  8. Be responsible to your work.
  9. Remember that your local posts can have global significance.
  10. Know that the Internet is permanent.

Click here to download the 3 page social media policy from Coca-Cola.

When companies create a policy they need to think about:

  • Their employees.
  • Flexibility.
  • Their role in the marketplace.
  • Social media policies aren’t written in stone.
  • The type of connection they want to have with their customers.
  • Web 2.0  is all about – engagement and conversation.

4 basic pointers for companies trying to create a policy:

  1. Be simple.
  2. Start small.
  3. Realize that it’s going to change.
  4. Incorporate case studies and examples for employees to be able to identify with them.

Should businesses have a social media policy and why?

Do you have a social media policy that you’d like to share?

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