Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The “Other” Social Media Policy – the One in the Personnel Manual

Much has been written by social media and marketing experts (this blogger included) advising companies to “look before they leap,” or in other words, “create a social media plan before jumping into social media.” While some companies follow this recommendation, some do not. The results for not following this recommendation can be dismal: few followers on Twitter, few fans on Facebook, few subscribers on YouTube, and few followers on LinkedIn. However, when a company’s marketing team or senior management team write a detailed social media plan and adapt it to its customers and prospects, the results can be impressive: increasing number of followers and fans on all social media sites and excellent conversations with customers and prospects - all leading to increased sales.

However, there is another social media policy that doesn’t get as much attention. This “other” policy defines “social media” for a company. Does it only refer to family photos on Facebook? Does it only refer to videos on YouTube? Does it only refer to business connections on LinkedIn? Does it only refer to 140-character quips on “The Twitter,” as Betty White calls it? Employees need to know.

Employees also need to know if any social networking sites can be accessed during office hours. If access is allowed, employees need to know the amount of time they may spend and on which sites as well as from which equipment access is allowed. Due to security concerns, it may not be wise for a company’s IT department to allow access from laptops and mobile devices.

Employees also need to know if the company owns their social networking accounts. For instance, if employees use LinkedIn strictly for sales leads, the question arises if the company owns those contacts or the employee owns the contacts. To address this issue, an employee might create two accounts (one personal and one for the company) or use a personal email address instead of a business email address to access his or her account.

Since specific employees may be involved with social media as part of their job for your company, as social media managers, they need training as to the company’s “official voice.” How do you want your tweets to sound, your Facebook posts to read, etc.? Do you want to use an informal manner of speech, lots of abbreviations, lots of contractions, etc.? Training is critical so that there is a consistent voice for your company – and consistency helps your brand. Some Twitter examples include @Best Buy and @StaplesTweets and @ComcastCares.

And what are the ramifications for employees if they do not follow the social media policy? The details must be written out and explained to new employees and existing employees as social media marketing and social networking evolve. So, does your company have a social media policy in its personnel manual?

Note: If you would like to read some good policies, here is a link to 150+ policies.

Note: I wrote a related post in 2009: Before you jump into social media, ask who speaks for you.

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