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How to… create an effective social media policy

Online, in the blink of an ill-thought tweet, your brand’s reputation can be put on the line. That means making sure staff understand appropriate social media communications is essential.
Whether it happened on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any of the other 17 significant social networks is irrelevant. Loose lips sink ships, as they say, and 8% of US companies have dismissed an employee for an online mistake, with one-fifth admitting to disciplining staff as a result of a web-based gaffe or slur.
Closer to home examples exist too. In 2009 Croydon Council suspended its Twitter account when an Evening Standard journalist was insulted, albeit only after the borough admitted to having no online rules or guidance in place for employees. Cutting to the chase then, taking the time out to develop an effective social media policy which all staff are aware of is a key task for any organisation.
As such creating a structured set of guidelines for social media must be a priority. The potential damage from dishonest, offensive, inappropriate, or simply misinformed network posts cannot be undone easily. Habitat, Beko, and Toyota are brands that have all shown us that. As such we’ve comprised some basics for consideration while trying to implement your own standards.

What do you want to say (and who is best to say it)?
First of all it’s important to understand what it is you want the company, and therefore its employees, to say. By this we don’t mean contravening freedom of speech, more outlining the major outcomes expected from social media use. Once established assign a communications team as prime spokespeople, if needs be look for some in-house training to get them up to speed as they’re official representatives of your brand.

Employees are employees, Monday to Sunday
Coca Cola’s Social Media Principles state that while all staff and associates have the right to use blogs and networks for personal expression (or corporate promotion) it’s important for them to understand the implications, namely that the company could be blamed for their actions. Note this, and understand that everybody represents your brand, so the policy needs to cover everybody.
Do not, repeat do not, misuse the platforms
Social media scandals are predominantly born from a lack of transparency, flagrant dishonesty, and misrepresentation. Before laying down the online law make sure you clearly understand any terms of usage in place on the networks that are being used. Perhaps more importantly, first recognise that the internet will out even the cleverest abuse of trust, then make sure all staff do too.
Pride will get you nowhere
Advice on the subject of social media policy will always recommend drawing up a written handbook for employees, and following this with training sessions so they can see the text in action. It’s also vital that once this is drafted you get outside eyes to proof the document and look for anything that needs to be included. If you’re struggling from the word go take some pointers from this policy creation website.
It’s work, treat it that way
The only way to truly gauge whether you have an effective social media policy or not is by reviewing the results, good or bad. Log significant official activity for reports, look at positive engagement from outside users and negative feedback; was it language or content that made the difference? Use this to amend, addend, and fine-tune, taking in any developments in the ever changing social sphere.
This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. We’d be happy to share our knowledge with you by assisting in the development of a bespoke, robust policy designed with your business in mind. Just call the fastest social media agency in Manchester for more information and to arrange a meeting.

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