[This post originally featured on EamonnMallie.com]
Social media can be a powerful marketing tool that any business, no matter how big or small, should use, but what are your policies governing its use? Perhaps a better place to start is to define and understand why you are using social media in the first place. If it’s for any of the following reasons, you probably shouldn’t be using them:
- Because it’s cool.
- Your competitors are using facebook, so you feel you must as well.
- Marketing people tell me that ‘social’ is good for business.
Being part of a social network is much more than just a marketing gimmick, it’s about raising awareness of your business and giving your business a profile that goes beyond bricks and mortar.
Before you get started on a social media strategy, review your current website. If your site is up-to-date and accurately reflects your brand and organisation then you are good to go. However, there is nothing worse than coming across a link on twitter and being directed to a website that has out of date content or there are no contact details. How can your (potential) customers take you seriously?
So, assuming your website is up-to-date where do you start?
- First you need to define your goals e.g. do you want to improve engagement between you and your customers?
- You need to determine who is going to manage your social media presence. Is this something that one person can manage or does it require multiple users?
- If you have multiple users, do your social media policies cover different roles? Do you have a workflow in place?
- You will need to draw up a policy or some guidelines on how to use social media sites. What sort of content will you publish? How quickly will you respond to questions?
- How will you measure performance? Can you establish a set of key performance indicators?
- What about your staff, can they use social media while in work?
- Do you encourage them to promote the business?
- Do you encourage them to speak on behalf of the organisation?
- Have you addressed what could go wrong?
This is why you need strong policies and guidelines in place. A lot of this is covered by common sense, but sometimes a little training can go a long way to preventing a PR disaster.
If your business is big enough to justify its own IT department and also has a marketing / communications team who controls social media use?
If there is any debate about this, let’s just lay it to rest now. It’s not an IT role. Social media use should reside within your communications, marketing, sales or customer service teams. Or perhaps its just you the small business owner. The point is that it’s not an easy task and should not be approached lightly.
Another question that should be answered by policy is how do your staff actually get the content our there? In other words, can I use my own personal phone to send a tweet to the company account? Is this appropriate?
We have all read about the PR nightmares that have started on twitter or facebook and a social media policy will not guarantee that this wont happen to you, but it does enable you to react to the situation in a professional manner. You will be aware of reputation management and how (especially in a word of mouth business) important this is, but remember that if something goes viral on social media that this can have a positive or a negative impact on your business and you need to be prepared for both scenarios.
Social media is all about sharing and there are numerous examples of social media policies in the wild. Here are just a few:
- University of Essex social media policy
- IBM Social Computing Guidelines
- ESPN: Social Networking For Talent and Reporters (PDF)
- Ryanair staff label blogger an “idiot and a liar”
- BP Account on Twitter? Just a Joke; K thx bye
- Habitat sorry for Iran Tweeting
Has your company got a social media policy? Is it managed or policed internally? Do you think that it is restrictive on staff? Let us know in the comments section below.