Do you need a social media policy?

What does the New York Times’ social media guidelines for their reporters look like? It’s simpler than you might think. The newspaper’s social media editor, Liz Heron told attendees of last week’s BBC social media summit, “We don’t really have any social media guidelines. We basically just tell people to use common sense and don’t be stupid.” I’ve got to say, I like their straightforward strategy because a lot of social media success comes from just using common sense and unfortunately, as an employer, you’ll never be able to control every tweet or Facebook post of your employees. So, why even develop formal social media guidelines at all?

We’ve all heard the cringe-worthy stories of social media slip-ups. Whether it’s @ChryslerAutos insulting their own customers with a—colorful—tweet, @KennethCole capitalizing on the situation in Cairo to promote their line, or Dominos employees posting disgusting and incriminating videos on YouTube, mistakes (and stupidity) can and will happen on social media. While I agree that the backbone of most social media guidelines should be simple common sense like that of the New York Times, most companies are going to need something more substantial to educate their employees and protect themselves in the social media space.

How do you know if you need social media guidelines?

  • If you’re a large company: If you have thousands of employees you need to set simple expectations and rules to protect your business, guide employees, and capitalize on the value they can bring to your message.
  • If you’re a small company: A small business needs to create parameters and guidelines for staff to make sure the message is unified and effective.
  • If most of your employees are not on social media: If your employees are not engaging on social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity to create brand awareness. Create guidelines that include a ‘how-to’ section to encourage employees to start interacting with your customers.
  • If most of your employees are on social media: If your employees are active on social media sites, you need to empower them to interact with customers and build your brand while establishing clear limits and rules.

Does it seem like I just said everyone needs to create social media guidelines? Well, I did! Whether it’s a three-word policy like the New York Times or a one-page explanation of do’s and don’ts and social media how-to’s, every company needs to have the social media conversation with their employees.

What does your social media policy look like?

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