Policies protect your business.
I know what you are going to say. Policies and procedures? Ick. In fact, I recently gave a talk to a group about policies and procedures and posted about it on Facebook. The only comment from our fans: Sounds exciting. Heh.
Say what you will, but it has never been more important to have clear, written policies and procedures in place if you are going to use social media marketing to grow your business. Let me count just three of the reasons why:
1) Social media is informal: Because people tend to treat social media communication as an informal channel of conversation, they are more likely to say something they shouldn’t. They use it like conversation at the watercooler…but…with social media it’s instanteous and often permanent. Real life example: Suzie sees Tom emerging from the HR office and he’s upset. Suzie tweets out, “Tom just left HR. Upset! Bet he got the whack!”. Panic among the ranks ensues.
2) Social media is forever (almost): One of the reasons that social media marketing is so powerful for your business is because it creates a digital portfolio of who you and your business are. An online picture of your products, services, people and culture begins to emerge. Much of that content is cached, which means that even if you delete it, someone has already seen it or Google has it stored somewhere. More importantly, an online faux pas may be very hard to undo. It’s like weight: easy to put on, really hard to lose. Once you’ve made an online reputation management error because you didn’t have good policies and training in place, it’s difficult to undo the damage.
3) Social media requires experience: Mhm. This is one of my favorites. Businesses routinely put the digital portfolio and online reputation in the hands of inexperienced folks because they are afraid of the technology (which in my humble opinion is secondary to the business case). Does Johnny have the experience to deal with negative comments or positively represent your business as the front-facing persona? What if someone presses Johnny for an answer or a competitor masquerading as a prospect asks for proprietary information? Is Johnny more likely to yield that information because he’s on Facebook or LinkedIn? You may be surprised.
Here are few things to keep in mind when planning a policy:
1) Understand your culture, industry requirements and philosophy: There are some edgy, loosey-goosey organizations that are fully embracing the best and worst of social media. Their policies are limited. If you are taking a more limited approach, then your policy should reflect that.
2) Inventory and define what could be considered confidential or proprietary information: You probably already have these things in place, but ensuring that you extend it to the social media realm is key.
3) Create examples and role-plays for your employees: There is no better way to learn than to look at the various situations that could arise from engaging in open, authentic, transparent conversation with prospects, competitors, vendors and customers. What is the next step if Johnny Tweets something he shouldn’t? Who does he tell if a negative comment is posted? How do we respond to information requests that seem out of the ordinary? How do they know if they are sharing personnel information they shouldn’t? Often, the communication lines are blurred in social media between personal and professional. You’ll want to help them to define those, too.
I could talk and write about this topic for days because I feel strongly that while social media is a boon to business, it carries inherent risk and having a solid, written policy is key. Here at Professional Mojo we were asked to create a policy toolkit for that purpose, one that would include templates. Rather than create something from scratch, we did the research and have partnered to offer one that has the basics to get you started at a reasonable cost. We like to provide value. If you’d like, check it out.
Hey, we’re happy either way – just as long as you think through what you need to do to protect your business. Now, isn’t policy sexy after all?