10 Steps For Creating A Social Media Policy

By Jenna Lebel

Whether you’re participating or not, social media IS part of your company. How do you govern it? The answer is a social media policy! In last week’s post I highlighted 5 examples of great social media policies in action. The truth is, only about 20% of companies worldwide have a “formal policy regarding employee use of social networking sites.” So why do you need one? I could go through a laundry list of reasons like your reputation being at stake, the potential for confidential and proprietary information being leaked and also exposure to a host of legal and financial pitfalls, but the very basic reason is that a social media policy protects your company. So here are 10 steps to creating your social media policy, and ultimately protecting your organization.

1)      Existing Policies

Before getting into the specifics of your policy, take a look at what policies you currently have in place and amend them to include changes to communication platforms. Just like social media overall, a social media policy should be entirely integrated. So whether it’s a privacy and confidentiality policy, a code of ethics or a policy governing computer, email and internet use, a social media policy should be an extension or addendum to what you currently have in place. It may still need to be a separate document focused entirely on social, but it’s important to adapt current policies to match and include social media as well.

2)      Purpose and Goals

This section of the policy should cover the basics of your social media presence and strategy to get everyone on the same page. Ideally, this section would give a brief introduction into your social channels (URLs, tactics on each platform, etc.) and answer the following questions: why you’re participating, how you’re participating and what your overall goals and expectations are in the space. Framing the purpose and goals of social media helps everyone understand what you're doing in social media and why it's important to govern it.

3)      Roles and Responsibilities

Your employees are your biggest brand advocates. Explain that each one of them can play a pivotal role in spreading your word both on and offline. Separately, outline the role and responsibility of each person either directly or indirectly involved in the social media efforts for your company.

4)      Ethics and Values

You may already have a code of conduct that includes ethics and core values. Outline those corporate ethics and values in this policy and highlight how they relate specifically to social media. For example, if one of your core values is transparency show what this means in an online world.

5)      Do’s, Don’ts and Expectations

At its core a social media policy is an evolving set of guidelines outlining the principles of communicating in the social media world. Do’s, don’ts and expectations are needed to clearly identify what is acceptable and unacceptable as well as outline how employees are expected to behave.

6)      Response, Engagement and Escalation

This section of the policy is more relevant to those playing a role in social media for the company, but still important to include for everyone. This is where you will outline how you respond, engage and handle issues via social media. Starting with response, you want to address how you respond (Do you respond to every comment or only negative ones? Do you have time requirements for response? Do you have different response approaches by network?) and who needs to be involved to effectively and accurately respond. Moving to engagement, you want to include the approach you take in engaging (voice, tone, ethics, values, etc.). Lastly, think about creating an escalation process that is essentially an organization chart for social media concerns. If someone runs into an issue they can’t handle themselves, who do they contact for help? The escalation process is critical in ensuring timely, accurate responses for your audience.

7)      Confidential and Proprietary Information, Intellectual Property Rights, Privacy Rights

As I mentioned earlier, a host of legal pitfalls comes with employees’ use of these powerful platforms. One of the most important sections of this policy will cover what information can and cannot be shared, the obligations to protect confidential and proprietary information as well as various rights, and a way for them to determine what is allowed and not allowed.

8)      Training and Involvement

Training is a very important part of social media. Education comes before participation. This part of the policy would encourage and solicit involvement from various departments. It would also outline a training program for anyone who wants to be involved in social media. Coca-Cola requires anyone who participates in social media on behalf of their company to go through a Social Media Certification Program. Obviously not every company needs a formal process of this sort, but understand the importance of training and consider an informal lunch and learn series covering social media 101, education on each platform and information on what your company is doing in the space.

9)      Promote and Enforce

Before you start you’ll need to determine how you will get the policy in the hands of every employee and how you will enforce their adherence to it. For the first part, you can have a hard copy that every employee receives and new hires receive at orientation. You could also post the policy online for the entire world to view. In tackling how you will enforce, you need to consider how you will monitor, police and what the consequences are for misbehavior.

10)   Evaluate, Adapt, Expand

Once implemented, constantly monitor the effectiveness and adoption of your policy and adapt accordingly. Similarly, continue to expand and alter your policy as social media changes and as you change your involvement in it.

Do you have other tips or steps to include? Or have you gone through this process? Share your experiences here!